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


MOST RECENT

Travis County is approaching Stage 5 risk with 69 new hospitalizations July 6. (Community Impact staff)
Travis County reports 7 new coronavirus deaths July 6

Travis County is appoaching Stage 5 risk with 69 new hospitalizations July 6 and 64.6 per day this past week.

A photo of two women walking on a trail
Travis County reopens some parks after holiday weekend, warns more closures could come

Seventeen Travis County parks will reopen following Fourth of July weekend closures.

Austin Community College President and CEO Richard Rhodes
Austin Community College resumes some in-person classes July 6

The district is continuing to offer most classes online, but some classes have resumed in-person activities.

Pharmacist Emily Smith opens a cooler for a patient to place their self-swab coronavirus test at a Walmart drive-thru testing site in McKinney on June 29. (Shelby Tauber/The Texas Tribune)
Poll says Texans' hopes for quick return to pre-coronavirus life are fading

Texans remain focused on the coronavirus pandemic and are less optimistic about returning the state to normal quickly, according to polling by the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller recently backed a movement calling for the reopening of winery and distillery tasting rooms and brewery and brewpub taprooms. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas Agriculture Commissioner joins voices calling for reopening of tasting rooms, taprooms

In a letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said demand from distilleries and breweries provides an important revenue stream to the state's farmers.

Rodney Redes
With its first signing, Austin FC looks to develop a young forward

With the beginning of its inaugural season less than a year out, professional soccer club Austin FC has officially begun building its roster.

Cheba Hut opened in Austin on June 22. (Courtesy Cheba Hut)
Cheba Hut opens first Austin location on The Drag

This is the first of several planned Texas locations for the marijuana-themed sub franchise, which started in 1998 in Colorado.

Volunteers help load food at an event hosted by the Central Texas Food Bank at Del Valle High School in April. (Courtesy Central Texas Food Bank)
Central Texas Food bank announces four drives in July

Families in need can pick up free produce, milk, protein and shelf-stable items, as available, on four dates.

Travis County added 670 new coronavirus cases July 4-5.
Austin metro COVID-19 hospitalizations rise to 446 after holiday weekend

Travis County added 670 new coronavirus cases July 4-5.

Overall in Travis County there has been a total of 10,695 cases since mid-March.. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Travis County adds 571 COVID-19 cases; new restriction put in place ahead of holiday weekend

Overall in Travis County there has been a total of 10,695 cases since mid-March.

The First Street Foundation's dataset includes a forecast models that anticipate the effects of climate change and sea level rise. (Screenshot via First Street Foundation)
Analysis: FEMA may be undercounting national total flood risk by as much as 70%

The new dataset includes an interactive Flood Factor dashboard that anyone can use to assess the risk of flooding over a 30-year period for any address.