Downtown Austin Alliance crafts vision of what area could look like in 20 years

This fall, community members drew their visions for the future of Downtown Austin on wooden boards that were turned into a table.

This fall, community members drew their visions for the future of Downtown Austin on wooden boards that were turned into a table.

This past fall, the Downtown Austin Alliance asked Austin residents to offer their opinions, hopes and concerns regarding downtown. On Wednesday, the DAA presented its “Downtown Austin Vision,” which it created based on the feedback it received from community members throughout last year.

The DAA, a nonprofit organization that works to enhance Austin's downtown vitality, set up an online survey; hosted focus groups with communities of different races, socioeconomic status and ages; and spoke to civic and community leaders to gather the feedback. It hosted "community's table events" in which individuals drew their visions of downtown on a wooden block, and the blocks were put together to form a table.

More than 3,000 responses were received from residents in 75 different ZIP codes, including 2,200 responses to the online surveys. It would be fair to assume so many opinions and voices might lead to a tangled web of potential solutions to downtown’s issues. However, according to DAA vice president of planning Melissa Barry, that was far from the case.

“The thing we really learned from that is a lot of the feedback on what people want to see in the future of downtown was very similar,” Barry said. “We were able to distill some very common themes we heard throughout the process into aspects moving forward into the downtown vision.”

According to the “Downtown Austin Vision" executive summary of findings, 23 percent of respondents said they “love” downtown Austin and 48 percent say they “like it a lot.” However, those respondents raised concerns ranging from downtown’s affordability, walkability, traffic congestion and the maintenance of its unique character.

"Participants were passionate about sharing their ideas, recognizing that downtown Austin is at a crossroads," the vision's executive summary reads.

To address those concerns, the vision includes four priority areas – high level goals that are broad enough to remain guideposts even as downtown grows and changes. Those priorities include providing “a variety of options for people to get around downtown” and delivering “a consistently clean and safe downtown experience.”

Mike Kennedy, chair of the DAA board and the vision steering committee, said the pace of downtown's population grown in the last ten years created a need for a high-level vision alongside more actionable, flexible goals.

“(The growth) creates a different element to the city," Kennedy said. "It goes from an 8-to-12 hour city to an 18-hour city moving toward a 24-hour city.”

Some respondents had specific issues they wanted to see addressed as well as big-picture ideas. The vision includes seven "transformative initiatives"-or items that will help achieve the high-level priorities. Those initiatives include lowering and capping I-35’s lanes through downtown; developing a cultural trust; and implementing a “comprehensive vision and strategic plan” to address homelessness.

The vision aims to implement its goals by 2039, Austin’s 200th anniversary. DAA President and CEO Dewitt Peart said the 20-year timeline will push the DAA to work on its goals right away.

“Twenty years seems to be far enough away to get things done, but close enough that you can’t ignore it,” Peart said. “It’s always good to have a deadline, and there’s nothing like having a birthday party that sort of creates that deadline.”
By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at jflagler@communityimpact.com


MOST RECENT

Maj. Vito Errico, left, and Maj. Jason Zuniga are co-directors of Army Futures Command's Software Factory, for which the first cohort of soldiers started in January. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
From a rifle to a keyboard: Army Futures Command opens Software Factory at downtown ACC campus

Twenty-five soldiers started in January as part of the Software Factory's first cohort. Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be at the Rio Grande campus for a ribbon-cutting April 15.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes leaders and Community First Village residents unveiled the planned third and fourth phases of the Austin development for the formerly homeless April 14. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin's Community First Village for the formerly homeless announces 127-acre, 1,400-home expansion

Officials with the community, which is intended for residents who have experienced chronic homelessness, said that two new expansion phases are expected to begin development in 2022.

Photo of a sign that says "Travis County"
Travis County establishes new emergency rental assistance program for 2021

The program will provide $10.7 million in aid to county residents struggling to pay rent due to the pandemic.

Plank Seafood Provisions opened inside The Domain in late March. (Courtesy Richard Casteel)
Seafood spot opens in The Domain; All Star Liquor now serving Georgetown and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Federal funding is set aside for public schools to address effects of the pandemic. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Why Texas has not yet distributed $18 billion in federal funds intended for public schools

As budget decisions loom for school districts across Texas, state leaders are holding on to federal funds intended for public schools to use in addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said power outages are not expected April 13, while requesting energy conservation. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
UPDATE: ERCOT call for energy conservation ends April 13 without need for power outages

An ERCOT official said "tight" supply and demand conditions arose on the state's electric grid April 13 due to forecasting issues amid planned, seasonal maintenance outages by some power generators.

Photo of hands holding a vaccine vial
After Austin Public Health appointments go unfilled, officials call for new distribution model

On April 12, APH filled 3,400 out of 14,000 available COVID-19 vaccine appointments in a registration window.

Masking continues to be required, with some relaxed circumstances for fully vaccinated residents. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Austin extends COVID-19 health rules through May 18, updates guidance for vaccinated residents

Masking continues to be required, with some relaxed circumstances for fully vaccinated residents.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended health providers pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine April 13. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
State, federal health authorities recommend pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after 6 rare, severe blood clots

Hub providers in Dallas, Harris and Travis counties have all announced they will follow the recommendations and pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine wait after receiving their shot at the Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin on March 13. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
National supply issues with Johnson & Johnson vaccine affect Austin-area shipments

After a manufacturing error ruined 15 million doses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the supply will not increase until the plant in Baltimore is once again allowed to participate in production.