Western downtown transformation continues

Long-term planning and upfront city investment are credited for the recent residential boom in Austin’s central core—especially in the western downtown area.

The effort to entice more residents downtown started in the late 1990s, according to Fred Evins, redevelopment project manager for the city’s Economic Development Department.

“The desire was to turn it into a 24-hour downtown,” Evins told Community Impact Newspaper in July. “The key to that is having downtown residents.”

An early city goal to attract 25,000 residents downtown is still halfway from being realized, he said. Condominium projects in the early 2000s helped prove there is enough downtown demand, Evins said.

“There’s been a few brave residential pioneers,” he said.

Meredith Powell, Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association board president, was one such pioneer, having moved downtown 10 years ago. She said the influx of downtown residents has been embraced by DANA members.

“It’s been a welcomed change, frankly,” Powell said. “Living downtown 10 years ago, it was quiet and at times a bit scary.”

City efforts to redevelop the former Seaholm Power Plant and Green Water Treatment Plant sites have resulted in the majority of residential developments being built on the west side of downtown.

“It may seem like this development is happening overnight, but really this is a long time in the making and the public had a part in making that possible,” Powell said.

The area, coined by some residents as the Market District, has benefited from other residential projects as well as complementary development, such as multiple grocery stores, said Scott Dunaway, spokesperson for Fifth & West Residences, a 39-story, 154-unit condo project under construction near redevelopment efforts. The residential project will open in fall 2017. Fifth & West is among multiple condos being developed in that portion of  downtown. However, Dunaway said the competitive market ultimately benefits residents.

“I would say that it’s great—it’s great for downtown living, and it’s provided a tremendous opportunity for folks to live a carless lifestyle down there,” he said.

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