City presents plans to improve corridors along 11th and 12th streets

Wednesday, June 29, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

The city shared some of its initial plans to improve the African American Cultural Heritage District along 11th and 12th Streets with venue, entertainment and development options expected in the coming months.

In a note Released last week, Economic Development Department Director Sylnovia Holt-Rabb shared three possible strategies for responding to some City Council directives contained in a Resolution 2021 intended to strengthen the cultural fabric and economic vitality of the area just east of Interstate 35. The resolution included eight actions as well as several follow-up requests for the city manager and staff, including the creation of an inventory of cultural assets in the district, the creation of an incentive program to attract and support creative-focused businesses, and finding ways to accelerate additional investment in the area.

Holt-Rabb wrote that recently confirmed contracts with Saber Development and Found Design will be used to improve the overall design and creation of places throughout the district, including the creation of a heritage orientation manual which is expected to be completed this fall. There will also be branded design work, as well as the fabrication and installation of selected wayfinding elements carried out under separate contracts.

The Saber contract calls for identifying ways to economically improve the neighborhood with relevant city programs and policies.

The call to improve the district’s entertainment and cultural offerings will build in part on the recently created Live Music Fund events program, which was approved by the Music Commission in February to promote diversity while creating opportunities in the music industry, including live events and recorded music production. Overall, the Live Music Fund is expected to be launched and active in awarding grants by next summer due to understaffing at EDD and the need to hire an outside administrator.

Council’s goal of receiving proposals for the redevelopment of the 1100 block of East 11th Street will be primarily managed by the Austin Economic Development Corporation, which will help administer three development projects and assess the feasibility of the plan. of urban renewal in the district. EDC will also engage a consultant to create a strategic plan for the African American Cultural and Heritage Center, which was recommended by a recent audit of cultural centers in the city.

The neighborhood, whose boundaries reach I-35 to the west, Airport Boulevard to the east, Manor Road to the north, and East 11th/East Seventh to the south, was created in 2007 to recognize the concentration of African-American landmarks and historical. and cultural assets that need to be preserved. Redevelopment and improvement efforts over the decades have had mixed success, although Council and community leaders are hopeful that recent changes to planning rules will have a positive impact.

In April, Council voted to make changes to the area’s urban renewal plan while leaving the underlying zoning categories in place. The proposed changes for the two corridors would eliminate the floor area ratio and compatibility requirements, and modify the height limit somewhat to allow for greater density.

Residents’ biggest concern when discussing these changes is the inclusion of more live music venues and cocktail bars, in an effort to bring some of the Old Austin atmosphere back to an area that was once filled with nightclubs featuring performances by popular touring musicians.

During a second reading of the changes earlier this month, Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, who represents the region, said her amendments to allow more hospitality uses had broad support across the country. region, with these views to be expressed at the scheduled third reading. will take place on July 28. It will take nine votes to pass the changes due to residents creating a valid petition opposing them.

Photo made available via a Creative Commons license.

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