downtown

AM Update
8:45 am
Mon March 19, 2012

AM Update: Texas' Middling Corruption Grade, Sidewalk Cafe for Congress Ave., Flash Flood Warning

Texas doesn't make it easy to follow the money, according to a study on corruption safeguards.
Photo courtesy Andrew Magill, flickr.com/amagill

Texas Gets a Low Grade in Corruption Protection

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Austin
3:49 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

Sixth Street Lane Closures This Afternoon

View Sixth Street Lane Closures in a larger map.

If traffic downtown wasn’t bad enough already: Three lanes are closed on Sixth Street, from Guadalupe to Nueces while the city makes emergency repairs. And the lanes won’t reopen until well after afternoon rush hour.  

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development
1:03 pm
Fri March 2, 2012

What to Do With Waller Creek?

Slated for redevelopment, Waller Creek is expected to transform from trashy to classy.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/baggis

The future of Waller Creek – if not downtown in general – is being drafted in a design competition.

Waller Creek, winding through the Eastern portion of downtown Austin, has received sporadic attention and investment over the years. The creek is prone to flooding during heavy rains, which has occasionally claimed the lives of homeless citizens sleeping along its sparsely-traveled banks.

Efforts to address Waller Creek received a boost in in 2006, when the city partnered with the county to fund a tunneling project. Currently underway in Waterloo Park, the tunnel will create a steady flow in the creek and pull nearby land out of the floodplain. But while engineering and construction of the tunnel continues, the city is facilitating a design competition to determine the function and aesthetics of the downtown areas along the creek.  

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music
1:17 pm
Fri February 17, 2012

City to Study 'Silent Disco' As Sound Mitigation Option

A silent disco at a music festival last year in Gdynia, Poland

Wireless headphone technology now makes it possible for people to have a dance party just about anywhere without large amps and speakers blowing away the entire neighborhood. The “silent disco” phenomenon has been growing over the past several years, and the City of Austin is now considering it as one option to help tackle the controversial issue of sound permits.

The Live Music Capital of the World stands out among its peers as being relatively tolerant of loud music. As Community Impact News recently pointed out in this chart, Austin allows venues to generate up to 85 decibels of sound on weekends, while San Antonio caps music at 63 decibels. Portland, Oregon seems almost sleepy by comparison, with its 60 decibel limit.

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Austin
3:44 pm
Thu February 16, 2012

$400 Rent in Downtown Austin? Nonprofit Says They Can Make it Work

Construction of affordable housing downtown could start in less than a year.

At a meeting tonight, Austin nonprofit Foundation Communities is making a pitch for their Capital Studios development – 135 apartments to be located on what's now a parking lot at 11th street and Trinity.  A Foundation Communities spokesperson tells KUT News Capital Studios will be the first truly affordable downtown development in the last 40 years – and with rents ranging from $400 to $650, all bills paid, it’s hard to argue.

The low rents are designed to attract Austinites that work and play downtown, but can’t afford to live there – primarily young adults making $27,000 annually or less. Ten of the units will be reserved for working musicians and artists. Another 27 units will provide permanent supportive housing for clients transitioning out of homelessness, processed through agencies like Caritas, the Trinity Center, and the ARCH.

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Austin
1:49 pm
Mon February 13, 2012

Downtown Austin's Density Plan Scrutinized

A rendering of downtown Austin's possible future, taken from the Downtown Austin Plan.
Image courtesy City of Austin/McCann Adams Studio

Is density an urban benefit, in and of itself? Or does density’s costs outweigh its inherit benefits?

Argument over growth is nothing new in local politics, but once redevelopment of downtown Austin took off over a decade ago, the debate gained a new wrinkle: Are developers erecting tall buildings downtown doing the city a favor by curtailing sprawl? Or should the city share in the financial benefits developers reap from building past traditional height limits?

Those issues get a thorough vetting in the Atlantic Cities blog today, which delves into the controversy surrounding the Downtown Austin Plan, and one of its most hotly debated components: a Density Bonus Program.

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Austin
12:12 pm
Mon February 13, 2012

Marriott's Downtown Hotel, Controversial Even Before Construction

A rendering of the JW Marriott Hotel, breaking ground this summer on what was the former site of Las Manitas.
Image courtesy White Lodging Services Corporation

It’s rare a place can be so controversial before it even breaks ground, but such has been the case with the JW Marriott hotel, slated for an opening in downtown Austin in 2015.

Part of the reason lies with what the hotel displaced: beloved tex-mex eatery Las Manitas, located at Second St. and Congress Ave. A popular and inexpensive lunch spot with politicos, downtown workers and the bleary-eyed alike, Las Manitas’ closing in 2008 – precipitated by the knowledge a new convention center hotel would be opening on its grounds – prompted another round of soul-searching for what the true “Austin experience” was, and whether it was in danger. The Las Manitas quandary was even prominently featured in a book on Austin’s “weirdness.”

The Austin City Council even considered offering incentives to the restaurant to move, before the proposal was rebuffed in the face of mounting controversy. Still, disagreement over the city’s stance towards the JW Marriott development persisted into 2011, when the council debated whether to waive millions in construction fees. Opponents depicted the waivers as a loss in needed revenue, while proponents pointed to the millions of dollars in taxable property base and hotel occupancy fees the 2,500 room hotel will produce.

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Austin
4:50 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

What Does a $42 Million Aquatic Center Look Like?

The YMCA of Austin has made quite a splash with proposals for a massive pool and aquatics center along the shores of Lady Bird Lake. But their pitch for city investment in the proposal appears to be treading water.

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Austin
11:32 am
Fri February 10, 2012

Take a Look at the City's Seaholm Plans

There's major development slated for the Seaholm area, just north of Cesar Chavez in the southwest section of downtown.
Image courtesy City of Austin

We wrote yesterday about plans for an art wall in the emerging Seaholm District in downtown Austin, and its potential to influence development in the area. So it’s worth highlighting how those designs are only one part of the city’s plans in the area.

Earlier this month, the city released an updated map for development in the Seaholm area, highlighting projects in various stages. Some are completed, like the first phase of apartment construction off Lamar, and the Pfluger bridge extension. Others are underway, like a nearby federal courthouse. But some of the most ambitious projects are decidedly far off, including construction of Seaholm’s centerpiece, a new central library.

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Austin
12:23 pm
Thu February 9, 2012

Will an Art Wall Determine the Future of Downtown's Seaholm Redevelopment?

A rendering of the Seaholm substation wall, at Second Street and West Avenue.
Image courtesy NADAAA, City of Austin

When is a wall more than a wall?

A presentation on an outdoor wall this morning turned into a broader discussion of the emerging Seaholm District downtown this morning.

Boston-based design firm NADAAA delivered a briefing to the Austin City Council this morning regarding their proposals for a wall near the Seaholm Power Plant – the iconic, Art Deco-style building along west Cesar Chavez slated for redevelopment.  The wall, an Art in Public Places project, is meant to obscure electrical devices at an electrical substation in the heart of the Seaholm district.

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Transportation
1:53 pm
Wed February 1, 2012

The $2.2 Million Question: Expand Cap Metro Rail Service?

Capital Metro's rail service may be expanded to weekends, if a funding agreement can be reached with the city.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Plans to expand Capital Metro’s rail service haven’t enjoyed a smooth roll-out.

The transit authority told KXAN yesterday its plans on launching weekend service on its MetroRail commuter line during this spring’s South by Southwest festival.

However, a report from Austin American-Statesman‘s Ben Wear notes there’s still no agreement between Cap Metro and the City of Austin, which is expected to fund the extra rail service. He quotes Austin City Council member and Cap Metro board chair Mike Martinez as saying, “The bottom line is, there’s no deal.”

The soonest any formal action could occur on the proposal is next week. At their Feb. 9 meeting, city council is slated to take up an item providing for the extra funding. The cost of expanding Friday rail service into the evening and running the service on Saturday is tallied at $2.2 million annually, with two optional year-long contract extensions.

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Austin
3:44 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

What Will Austin’s Soundproofing Program Do For Downtown Clubs?

A band plays the Mohawk last year. Venues like the Mohawk may be eligible to participate in a soundproofing program for Downtown clubs.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/rogerho

How much sound mitigation can you buy for $40,000?

That a question the Austin City Council is poised to consider this week, as they consider a resolution that would enact a sound mitigation case study at a music venue downtown. It’s a signal of the importance of music to the city’s economic and cultural health, but also a symptom of the growing pains downtown is entering as more people move into the city’s urban core – and how the two can often be at odds.

The resolution before council this Thursday, Item 14, calls to change the name of the Downtown Venue Relocation Program to the Music Venue Assistance Program, and “initiate, fund, and oversee a sound mitigation case study of a relevant music venue in an amount up to $40,000 from the Downtown Development Fund.”

“What we really want to do is keep as many venues downtown as we can, because you want a concentration of music venues in a relatively small place so it’s walkable,” says council member Bill Spelman, sponsor of Item 14.  

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Transportation
5:31 pm
Wed January 25, 2012

New Cab Fees Coming to Council

A taxi driver stretches his legs in Downtown Austin.
flickr.com/bionicteaching

Here’s another reason not to over-imbibe: If you get sick in a taxi on the way back from Sixth Street, you could get hit with a $100 dollar fine.

That measure is one of two proposals coming to the Austin City Council tomorrow. Item 42 creates the clean-up fee. If passed, it directs City Manager Marc Ott to draft “recommendations for implementation and enforcement strategies for a $100 taxicab clean-up fee” – i.e., how and when the fee will be collected. It will also implement the new rule quickly, by Feb. 9.

There’s a second cab-related measure up too: Item 43, which would implement a “peak hour surcharge” on fares. Between the hours of 9p.m. and 4:30p.m., fares would be charged a flat $2.50 surcharge.

The new fees are an outgrowth of complaints council regularly hears every time a taxi-related measure comes up: that it's difficulty to make a living as a cab driver.

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Arts and Culture
4:50 pm
Mon January 16, 2012

The Panopticon Shot Bar: SceneTap Uses Cameras to Survey Nightlife

Smartphone app SceneTap uses cameras and facial recognition software to assess the male-to-female ratio in Austin nightclubs.
Photo courtesy www.flickr.com/mrjoro

So this is the way we live now: a new mobile application is coming to Austin that rates bars. But instead of relying on user-submitted data like Yelp, it has a network of cameras in participating nightclubs feeding real time information on a club’s capacity and demographics.

That’s the idea behind SceneTap, launching across several Austin bars this Friday.

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Austin
4:50 pm
Fri January 13, 2012

City Round-Up: Street Closures, Surplus Sales, and Parking Goes Mobile

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It wouldn’t be a weekend in Austin without a few street closures, but this one’s lasting a little longer than most. The city advises West 34th Street, between Medical Parkway and Lamar Boulevard will be closed for three months, as the city repairs pipes under the stretch of street.

The city has more information on street closures on their Special Events website.

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Austin
3:46 pm
Mon January 9, 2012

What is a Decentralized Dance Party?

Tom and Gary say their parties are strictly business.
Photo courtesy decentralizeddanceparty.com

Austin’s never wanting for parties, and certainly not last weekend: A touring soirée known as the Decentralized Dance Party invaded downtown Saturday, Jan. 7, leaving a trail of a boombox-touting party people in its wake.

The brainchild of Canadians “Tom and Gary” (no last names given), the DDP is essentially a flash mob on steroids, embodying the nimble, adaptable nature of those gatherings, with a nod to the public space reclamation in movements like the Occupy protests. Or more simply, Tom and Gary use radio frequencies to transmit music from an MP3 player to party goers’  boomboxes. (The music encompasses “Booty Bass, Eurodance, Party Metal, Jock Jams and Choice Hard Rock,” according to the Music section of their “Party Manifesto.”) Wherever the crowd goes, the tunes do to.

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Austin
12:10 pm
Fri June 10, 2011

Street Closure Map for Republic of Texas Rally 2011

View Austin Street Closures- ROT Rally in a larger map

Fire up your choppers! The annual Republic of Texas Biker Rally is underway. The four day event is the largest motorcycle rally in Texas and brings over 200,000 bikers and spectators to downtown Austin.

The main event - the ROT Motorcycle Parade and Downtown Bash - is set to begin at 7:30 this evening. The 11 mile parade was named in 2006 as the "Longest Parade of Motorcycles Known to Mankind” by the Guinness Book of World Records.

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Health
1:43 pm
Wed January 5, 2011

Top 21 Bars Where DWI Suspects Drank in Austin

Image courtesy Thomas Hawk http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/

The Austin Police Department has released its annual list of local bars where drunken driving suspects reported having their last drink before getting behind the wheel.

West 6th Street bars make up the top four establishments on the list, with J. Blacks coming in at number one for the second year in a row. Twenty-nine drunken driving suspects who were arrested told police they had come from J. Blacks in 2010.

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Transportation
4:10 pm
Wed December 15, 2010

Goodbye Free Downtown Parking?

Image courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuckincustoms/

Our buddy over at the Austin Business Journal, Jacob Dirr, is reporting that the Austin Transportation Department (ATD) wants you to pay for parking downtown until midnight and end free parking on Saturdays.  ATD also wants to extend meter enforcement citywide from 5:30 p.m. until 6 p.m., reports the ABJ.

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food
1:37 pm
Thu October 28, 2010

Vince Young's Steakhouse To Open in November

NFL quarterback Vince Young is opening a steakhouse in Austin next month.
Photo courtesy Rex Hammock http://www.flickr.com/people/rexblog/

We already knew that former Texas Longhorns hero and current Tennesse Titans quarterback Vince Young had planned to open a steakhouse at 3rd and San Jacinto.   Now we know when. The Statesman reports:

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