1. Downtown Austin faces key decisions, challenges amid development boom
Downtown Austin continues to see surging construction and visitor activity, and further transformational change is on the way with development set to grow by at least 25% alongside new public spaces and massive mobility additions coming online in the years ahead.
The overview of downtown's status was compiled by the Downtown Austin Alliance for its annual State of Downtown report released May 17. The nonprofit advocates for stakeholders and the more than 1,000 properties in the central business district, and manages hundreds of downtown acres through a public improvement district.
President and CEO Dewitt Peart said Austin's downtown appears to remain in a strong position—especially compared with most other major U.S. city centers—although “some turbulence” may lie ahead. Business and corporate interest in Austin, constant new development, and many other proposed upgrades around downtown leave it in a good place to weather possible course corrections Peart said could be coming in the real estate sector and economy overall.
Read the story by Reporter Ben Thompson.
2. City officials warn to avoid contact with algae found at Lake Austin, Lady Bird LakeCyanobacteria, known as blue-green algae, were found at sites along Lady Bird Lake and Lake Austin, except for Walsh Boat Landing, between May 2 and May 12 as the city of Austin resumed its algae monitoring program, according to a news release from May 16 by the Austin Watershed Protection Department.
The city of Austin is resuming routine monitoring as temperatures rise, with biweekly visits to three testing sites on each lake during summer through early fall, according to the news release.
When blue-green algae is present at a site, samples are taken of the algae and water and sent to be analyzed for potential toxins in a lab. These results are anticipated to be available in June and posted online.
While there are many types of blue-green algae, only some species are able to produce one of several types of toxins. If a species is capable of producing toxins, it may not necessarily do so without warm, stagnant water and nutrients, according to Watershed Protection officials.
Read the story by Reporter Elle Bent.
3. Area leaders talk Central Texas affordability, workforce solutions at summitAustin-area city, workforce and financial leaders gathered at Austin PBS on May 17 to review the outlook for the affordability challenge that continues to confront the region amid years of growth and spiking housing costs.
Amplify Credit Union’s first Central Texas Affordability Summit at the Highland media center featured Austin Mayor Kirk Watson and several community leaders for panel discussions about the area’s rising cost of living; its effect on the local workforce; and how businesses, governments and other entities can address the issue.
“There is a fundamental disconnect between median household income and median home price,” Amplify CEO Kendall Garrison said. “And that’s the thing that really makes Austin unaffordable for so many people that aren’t high-income earners. You just can’t afford to live in Austin anymore or even in Travis County.”
Read the full story by Reporter Ben Thompson.
4. Preventative street maintenance to begin this summer across AustinSeasonal street maintenance is starting this summer in neighborhoods across Austin through early fall to help preserve streets, extend their lifespan and save taxpayer money in the long run.
According to city staff, crews with the Transportation and Public Works Department are starting the preventative work as approaching summer temperatures are ideal for surface treatments, such as sealcoat, to be applied.
Sealcoat involves spraying a layer of oil on streets, spreading asphalt material on top and sweeping off excess rock. The process results in a smoother surface that eliminates hairline cracks that can lead to potholes, and also increases skid resistance, according to the city.
Read the full story by Reporter Brittany Anderson.
5. Paramount Theatre announces lineup for summer classic film seriesThe Paramount Theatre is celebrating its 49th annual summer classic film series, which kicks off May 26 and runs through Sept. 2, officials announced in a news release May 11.
Presented by Capital Metro, the series will focus on the magic and wonder of film, said William Mills, a spokesperson for the theatre.
"This summer’s screenings—curated by film programmer Stephen Jannise—will include more than 90 screenings of beloved classics for film fans of all ages, more 35 mm presentations and plenty of partnerships bringing unique film events to the historic stages at the Paramount and Stateside Theatres," Mills said in the news release.
Read the full story by Reporter Amanda Cutshall.