Rainey Street fund rises from ashes to preserve Mexican-American heritage in booming district

Austin's Rainey Street District has become one of the most popular entertainment districts in the city.
Austin's Rainey Street District has become one of the most popular entertainment districts in the city. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin's Rainey Street District has become one of the most popular entertainment districts in the city. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

Although the city has long intended to preserve the Mexican-American identity of the rapidly changing Rainey Street District, it has never prioritized the money to do so—even though City Council has tried. That changed Nov. 14 after City Council unanimously supported the creation of a new financing funnel.

The Rainey Street Fund will collect right of way fees, alley vacation sales and license agreement payments from development projects in the Rainey Street District to pay for projects that promote and preserve the heritage of the once-modest Mexican-American neighborhood.

The Rainey Street District, located in downtown’s southeast corner, has seen explosive growth since 2005, when City Council approved a dramatic increase in allowed density for the area. The neighborhood—an area of roughly one-tenth of a square mile—which was once characterized by single-family bungalows is now home to 3,565 residential and hotel units with more than 3,600 more units approved or proposed, according to a Community Impact Newspaper analysis.

The Rainey Street Fund will collect revenue through development projects in the neighborhood. Amid some council concerns that the fund was taking the lion's share revenue that could be used across the city, City Council agreed to cap the fund’s collection at $200,000 per year.

City Council attempted to create an annually funded Rainey Street Fund back in 2013, but miscommunication of intent between city staff and City Council members left the fund void after one year. Council Member Kathie Tovo, whose district includes Rainey Street, has led the effort to revive the fund as concerns mounted over waning Mexican-American presence and growing infrastructure issues in the booming neighborhood.

“This was a commitment that was made that’s never been fully realized,” Tovo said. “I’m trying to pull from the ashes something we can all support and honor what I regard as a significant commitment that the city has not upheld.”

When Tovo initially brought this proposal back in August, she wanted the fund to pay for infrastructure projects in the neighborhood as well, but she received pushback from other council members, who said that the entire city should compete fairly for sidewalk and capital improvement money and that neighborhoods should be prioritized by need. However, many council members supported the creation of a fund aimed at promoting the Mexican-American heritage of the neighborhood.

In voicing support for the fund, Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza criticized Austin for not elevating Mexican-American culture at the same levels as San Antonio.

“I hope that this fund can create a similar sense of belonging and sense of culture for our Latinx community here in Austin,” Garza said.
By Christopher Neely

Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Su


Central Health is exploring options to provide a cash injection to its employees with minimum wage salaries. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Central Health will explore minimum wage bumps for its employees

The health care district is considering increasing its minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The 87,744-square-foot campus formerly occupied by HealthSouth has remained vacant for several years. (Courtesy Google Maps)
With resources limited in homelessness initiatives, potential of former HealthSouth property sparks disagreement on City Council

The city-owned 87,744-square-foot property has sat vacant in downtown Austin for years.

(Courtesy Whataburger)
Whataburger opens new location on East Oltorf Street

This is the burger chain's 19th location in Austin.

Travis County commissioners participated in budget hearings during the fiscal year 2018-19 budget process. (Taylor Jackson Buchanan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Travis Central Appraisal District board will host in-person meetings for informal protests in 2020

The Travis Central Appraisal District board of trustees voted to bring back in-person meetings for informal protests this year.

Residents can expect mailers to arrive by mid-March requesting they participate in the 2020 census. (Courtesy U.S. Census Bureau)
Austin-Travis County officials establish nonprofit to raise funds to support complete census count

Officials in Austin and Travis County have formed a complete count committee to support the 2020 census effort.

Austin Transportation installed "No parking" signs in 2019 on South Congress Avenue to discourage illegal parking in bicycle lanes. (Courtesy Google Maps)
Austin to start issuing tickets to drivers who park in bike-only lanes in effort to improve safety

Drivers who illegal park in a bicycle lane could receive a $300 fine and have their vehicles towed.

The modernized T.A. Brown Elementary School campus opened on Jan. 8. Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper
T.A. Brown among Austin ISD’s first wave of modernized campuses

T.A. Brown's new campus opened in January, shortly before the modernized Menchaca Elementary School in South Austin.

A sign guides voters in during the Nov. 6, 2019, election at Ben Hur Shrine Temple in North Central Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
See which local elected positions are on March, November ballots in Central Austin

Local elections begin with the March 3 primaries, followed by the general election in November.

Livestrong Foundation relocates HQ to North Central Austin

The Livestrong Foundation relocated its headquarters to 623 W. 38th St., Ste. 300, Austin, from 2201 E. Sixth …

Austin Museum of Popular Culture (Courtesy Leea Mechling)
Austin Museum of Popular Culture now located on North Lamar

Austin Museum of Popular Culture now located on North Lamar

Flamencura Music & Dance moves to Research Boulevard

Flamencura Music & Dance, a locally owned flamenco studio, relocated Oct. 30 to a new space at 8910 Research …

The first two Proterra electric buses arrived in Austin, and Capital Metro will roll them out in late January. (Courtesy Capital Metro)
Capital Metro starts electrifying its transit fleet; first 2 electric buses go into service Jan. 26

Capital Metro will roll out the first two electric buses in late January.

Back to top