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heritage tree relocation at highland redevelopment


Originally opened in 1971, Highland Mall was Austin’s first indoor shopping mall and remained open until April 2015, at which point the 80-acre site had become blighted and derelict. The property was purchased by Austin Community College, which took over the main mall component to create a new math and technology campus, and parceled out the remaining lots, most of which were surface parking, to individual developers.

We worked with the larger project team to develop a design guidelines book for the entire 80-acre district in addition to providing design services for several distinct projects. We’re working on multiple distinct projects within the overall Highland redevelopment effort, including corporate office for the City of Austin Planning & Development Center, which is an Austin Energy Green Building 3-Star project and seeking LEED certification. It includes approximately 2 to 3 acres of immersive public realm space. Additional projects include a comprehensive district trail system design, several mixed-use residential projects, and design of a large public park and greenway.

A few months ago, the project team was tasked with relocating two large heritage trees on the site to a different location on the site.

So, what is a Heritage Tree?

The City of Austin defines a Heritage Tree as a tree that has a diameter of 24 inches or more, measured four and one-half feet above natural grade and is one of the following species: Ash (Texas), Bald Cypress, American Elm, Cedar Elm, Texas Madrone, Bigtooth Maple, all Oaks, Pecan, Arizona Walnut and Eastern Black Walnut.

What is a Protected Tree?

The City defines a Protected Tree as a tree that has a diameter of 19 inches or more, measured four and one-half feet above natural grade.

The Heritage Trees we had at the Highland site were two 27-inch Live Oaks. Environmental Design Inc. moved the trees using an air bag system, in which they inflated huge bags with air and then slowly rolled the trees across the property to their new homes.

The overall process to move the trees took several months to complete, with a 90-day preparation period, excavating and wrapping the root balls, digging the new homes for the trees, and then finally rolling them across the property.

Above are a few photos from the moving day!