Moving downtown: Firms gather input on future of Main StreetPublished 10:30am Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Austinites have a broad perspective of downtown.
That’s one of the trends representatives from two consultant firms found Monday during a visit to Austin to gather information for an update of the city’s downtown master plan, the guiding document to plan out changes to the city’s central business district zone over the next few years.
The city hired two firms in May to update its master plan after several major projects were announced in the downtown area.
Community Development Director Craig Hoium said downtown master plans are redone whenever unexpected major projects, such as Vision 2020 initiatives like the Downtown Utilities Plant Committee, or the Spam Museum relocation, take place.
The last downtown master plan was done in 2005, to accommodate the city’s Main Street Project initiative.
CR Planning and SEH toured various areas of Austin, from the Fourth Avenue Corridor to the Austin Utilities Downtown Plant. The firms also spoke with area companies and organizations on what the downtown area looked like to them.
Brian Ross, the lead consultant for CR Planning on the project, said the team spotted several trends during their visit, including a need to make the downtown area more vibrant and to connect to the Cedar River.
“That is an asset that everybody really appreciates,” Ross said.
More than 30 residents attended a public meeting to gather more input. Several downtown business owners contributed ideas, from lax parking hours to more green space in the downtown area.
“I’d like to see a real emphasis in downtown on the landscaping, with a special emphasis on trees,” Mike Ruzek said.
In addition, some people like Marv Repinski believed more apartments near or in the downtown area could be the answer. Several residents, including city council members, said residential property near the downtown area would be a huge boon to the city.
“It seems to me that at some point, that will go on the agenda,” Repinski said.
Others called for more parking in the downtown area. Though the city has several parking lots residents could use, some business owners say there isn’t enough parking close to downtown businesses, such as the Style Lounge. Some customers have to park in an area near a bar, which owner Lindsey Heiney said wasn’t always safe at night.
“That’s been an issue,” she said.
CR Planning and SEH staff will spend three months gathering input and research from the city and local organizations, creating a plan based on the city’s desires and trends, and getting community input on the master plan.
“The maps are what you want to see, in the future, in your downtown, in Austin,” Ross said.
The report will likely reflect a larger area of downtown than in previous plans, according to Ross. That will likely include the downtown area down to First Avenue South, as far east as the river, and north of Mill Pond to include the businesses south of Kuehn Motors. In addition, the report may include recommendations for opportunities with buildings like the downtown utilities plant.