In November 2007, residents moved into the first houses of the new Mueller neighborhood, on the site of the former Robert Mueller Municipal Airport (RMMA) in Austin, Texas. Shortly thereafter, I joined them as another Mueller “pioneer.” We signed contracts without seeing any homes, without seeing all the parks, the shops…we signed on the strength of the plans and an idea about what the community could become. I did, however, have a little more advance knowledge about neighborhood design and planning than most, having worked on the RMMA project from the beginning.
Now, almost 13 years later, I truly love living at Mueller and have an even greater appreciation for all the effort that has gone into the design. The diversity of open spaces has helped community and relationships to flourish. In addition, accessibility to outdoor spaces has had a major impact on neighborhood quality of life, especially over the past two years. Thoughtful planning has integrated parks throughout the community, with the goal of ensuring that all residents are within 600 feet of a green space.
Open spaces at Mueller are plentiful and have a wide range of sizes and uses. There are large group and event spaces, as well as intimate spaces offering solitude and discovery. There are bustling urban areas and quiet neighborhood parks, along with wilder-seeming natural areas and habitat. As we speak, new park uses are on the way, with the construction of the Southeast Greenway!
It’s easy to think of open space simply in terms of acreage, but landscape within a neighborhood has the potential to be so much more than just “open space.” The different types of open spaces in the community have fostered stronger relationships between neighbors. Of course, real community requires action by residents, but outdoor spaces play a role and can work for or against a desire for community. Having a network of sidewalks and trails means we see and get to know more neighbors simply because people get out of their houses and walk. Mueller parks provide space for large gatherings and events that can create neighborhood traditions, as well activities like sports, birthday parties, and more. On a block level, garden courts and alleys prove ideal for block parties, impromptu potlucks, or just hanging out with your nearest neighbors. I’d go as far as to say that alleys are integral to life at Mueller, often functioning as a shared backyard.
As you know, open space in Texas can be unbearable without shade…and the sheer number of trees incorporated throughout Mueller is a major factor in creating a livable landscape. The developer, Catellus Austin LLC, took the opportunity to transplant hundreds of mature trees, creating shade in parks where there originally was none. Since Mueller’s inception, even more street trees have been planted, and on my many walks, I have had the pleasure of watching them grow until one day, the trees touched. Now, I can have the pleasure of walking under a continuous leafy canopy, offering a nice respite on those hot summer days.
It is the season of thanksgiving, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to live in Mueller and watch it grow. Seeing its landscape become woven into the fabric of the neighborhood causes me to be even more committed to creating landscapes that bring people together.