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  • Austin Community Character in a Box

    Austin’s Community Character Initiative Surpasses 100-Box Milestone

    Austin’s CodeNEXT team is excited to announce that more than 150 Austin residents have signed up to host a group to complete a Community Character in a Box kit. The project surpassed a milestone this week—122 kits have already been prepared or picked up by registered participants.

    Community Character in a Box is part of an effort to further open the channels of communication between Austin’s city government and its community. Community character documentation is a two-step process: The do-it-yourself kits contain a set of neighborhood maps and supplies to help hosts organize neighborhood sessions to map the assets (strengths), constraints (weaknesses), and opportunities of each community and to document the built environment using photography.

    Photography is an essential element of the documentation process—it helps the CodeNEXT team to understand the character and unique aspects of a neighborhood from the perspective of its residents. As the team works to update Austin’s Land Development Code, understanding those unique aspects will help to determine how different zoning tools can help meet the vision of each neighborhood’s plan, as well as that of Imagine Austin.

    George Zapalac of the city’s Planning and Development Review Department said the city is very pleased with the response they have received. “We’re excited about the level of interest in the community and are looking forward to getting significant input back,” said Zapalac.

    Opticos created the above maps to show the intensity of interest and activity by neighborhood. The map on the left shows the number of boxes requested by each neighborhood reporting area. The map on the right shows the number of boxes prepared for or picked up by neighborhood participants. Gracy Woods (35), North Loop (57), and Zilker (103) are among the most active neighborhoods, each with four or more boxes already prepared and picked up.

    Zapalac said one box has already been returned—the deadline for the initial group to return their boxes is April 21. He added that the process would continue throughout the calendar year. The city plans to follow up with neighborhoods where participation has been low to get more groups involved.

    Getting involved is easy: Register on the CodeNEXT website to receive a community character box and then gather a group of neighbors to identify the places in your neighborhood that you think are strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. Then, head out into your community to photograph your neighborhood’s built environment and its unique aspects.

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