The current master plan originated from the 83rd Texas Legislature which directed the Texas Facilities Commission to prepare a master plan for the Capitol Complex, in collaboration with the Texas State Preservation Board, the General Land Office, the Texas Historical Commission, and the Partnership Advisory Commission. This legislative directive culminated in the adoption of the 2016 Texas Capitol Complex Master Plan in March of 2016.
Historical master planning efforts begin in 1944, with the 47th Texas Legislature creating a Capitol Planning Commission to work with the Austin City Planning Commission on the “Capitol Plan Report” of 1944. The report noted the inefficiency of meeting state government office needs in facilities located across the city and recommended the expansion of the Capitol grounds to the north between Colorado and Brazos Streets to what is now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
In 1956, Harold F. Wise and Associates prepared the Austin Master Plan, which included a detailed Capitol Area Master Plan. The State Building Commission defined the areas from 11th Street to 19th Street (now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard) and Lavaca Street to San Jacinto Boulevard as the Capitol Area. The 1956 Capitol Area Master Plan proposed two plans that would create a strong public realm, provide a front door to the Capitol from the north, and accommodate growth needs with land acquisition extending to 19th Street. The first plan envisioned a grand Congress Mall with underground parking, reinforced with buildings on the east and west sides. The second plan provided a narrower Congress Mall lined with new buildings and surface parking on the perimeter.
In 1963, a master plan entitled Capitol Area Master Plan and Its Development used the 1956 Capitol Area Master Plan as a framework for development. A series of modifications and additions to the plan recommended Congress Avenue, 14th Street, and other streets north of the Capitol should be left open for use by the public; the visual axis between the Capitol and the University of Texas should be kept free and open by limiting the height of buildings; land acquisition should proceed promptly as far as 19th Street, with vacant property to be used as parking facilities.