Contributing to Our Communities: Jonathan Schwartz

When people become architects they dream of design that makes a difference. That dream is turning into reality for Jonathan Schwartz, Page Designer. He is playing a significant role in shaping a relatively new community that is changing the city of Austin. In turn, that experience also is shaping Jonathan as an architect.

The Mueller master planned community is a brownfield development in near northeast Austin on the site of the former airport that served the city for seven decades. Today, the site is one of the largest urban mixed-use developments in the nation, offering both multi- and single-family housing, retail, restaurants, medical facilities and office spaces serving multiple neighborhoods within the district. Aside from the Downtown district, Mueller is the only district in Austin to have a dedicated City Council advisory commission, and Jonathan holds one of eleven commissioner positions. 

He is a resident of an adjacent neighborhood so his family has watched Mueller grow while enjoying its amenities such as the park, bicycle trails and Aldrich Street which serves as a  town center. In fact, Jonathan was the project architect for the Aldrich Cinema which anchors the main street and is a member of the design teams for both Page multifamily projects in Mueller. This familiarity with the district made him an obvious candidate for consideration on the commission.

The community’s significance is its focus on preservation, sustainability and inclusivity at a time when Austin is experiencing unprecedented growth and it would be very easy to ignore those elements in favor of speed to completion and profit. The original airfield tower was preserved to retain Mueller’s connection with its history and to serve as an updated version of landmark wayfinding, as well as the Browning Hangar which is now an open-air venue . Some streets are named after local historic figures such as Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. As Jonathan notes, this also helps new residents to the state learn more about their new home. 

Every new structure in the Mueller district is designed to achieve LEED certification, such as the first multifamily residential project away from major thoroughfare Airport Boulevard, AMLI Mueller. Page designed it to achieve LEED Platinum as well as the nearby Aldrich Multifamily Residences which are currently under construction. In keeping with this approach, Mueller was planned to be pedestrian and bicycle-friendly with curbs protecting bicycle lanes on busier streets. Its developers recognize the importance of being connected to Austin, and ensured the approximately five miles of bike paths also extend beyond the neighborhood, providing easy access for people like Jonathan to enjoy the trails and parks. 

In fact, the community was always intended to be inclusive and its amenities were designed to enhance East Austin. The swimming pools, parks and open spaces are open to the general public and public attractions like a performing arts center and Aldrich Street were designed to draw visitors to the area. A percentage of housing developments are required to be considered affordable so that a diverse population can live there. Some 25 percent of the homes in Mueller are reserved specifically for households with lower than the area’s median incomes. This makes it one of the largest communities offering affordable and workforce housing in Central Texas.

Mueller’s success and popularity among residents and visitors alike has already prompted new development across Airport Boulevard, which is one of the district’s boundaries. As Mueller itself grows with more development proposed such as mixed use office buildings, condos, hotels and even a school, Jonathan and his colleagues on the City Council advisory commission are responsible for advising city of Austin on continued implementation of the Mueller Master Plan and other redevelopment issues, including review of future developments, land disposition strategy, traffic, urban design and zoning issues, demolition of existing facilities and more.

Jonathan is very proud to be affiliated with a national role model for responsible urban planning and development like the Mueller district. It is his personal hope the lessons that continue to be learned as the district further develops will be successfully applied elsewhere in Austin and central Texas. Through his multiple affiliations with Mueller as user, designer and advisor, Jonathan has learned a great deal about master planning, execution and designing elements to fit within established parameters. These skills are being leveraged on other Page projects where he can share his expertise with colleagues and other firms, such as a mixed use office building with a museum on the ground floor at the highly anticipated Texas Capitol Complex expansion.