Newest Installation of Public Art Project at 2nd and Guadalupe

Newest Installation of Public Art Project at 2nd and Guadalupe

Reflections on the Brazos by Ryah Christensen (2nd and Brazos)

The Second Street Public Art Master Plan (part of Great Streets), in coordination with the City’s Art in Public Places program, has methodically been placing art in around the district since the mid-2000s, when 7 sidewalk enhancements were commissioned at district intersections to reflect a unified theme.

The City of Austin has a 2% for art ordinance that was established in 1985. Art in Public Places (AIPP) is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and Austin was the first municipal public art program in the state of Texas. Under the ordinance, 2% of eligible capital improvement project budgets are allocated for the commission of public art for that site. The projects in The Second Street Public Art Master Plan are under that envelope of funding.

[Read more…]





How Much Convention Center Is Too Much Convention Center?

How Much Convention Center Is Too Much Convention Center?

block-8 2

Block 8 sits in the southern shadow of the Four Seasons Residences, just west of the Austin Convention Center.  There are signals that the City of Austin is posturing for another Convention Center eminent domain battle (à la the Whittington Saga Part 1 & Part 2, which we wrote about in 2008).

City Staff recently recommended that the City acquire the southern tracts of what’s known as Block 8 to be part of an expansion of the Austin Convention Center, the first step in a larger proposed expansion.

block-8 2

The Convention Center currently sprawls over six city blocks, and hosts 881,400 square feet of space.  The City Memo states that there is “solid evidence” for expansion and is wanting up to 305,000 in additional square feet! No doubt the abundance of downtown hotel rooms recently built, and under-construction is part of that “evidence”.

You can view the memo in a recent report from the Austin Monitor, though talks about this have been going on behind closed doors for a while before this.

block-8-tcad-parcels

Plat map of the southern half of Block 8

Below is the breakdown of current ownership of the southern half of Block 8 that the city is intending to initially acquire:

101 E Cesar Chavez / 302 E Cesar Chavez – this is one of the most awkward buildings in downtown Austin. The tenant, Casa Chapala, recently closed its doors.  Public records show the lot to be owned by Bloctavo Holdings LLC / John Calhoun Miller, a real estate attorney in Texas. May be a registered agent.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

304 & 306 Cesar Chavez – downtown’s purveyor of Aprilias and Vespas, AF1 seems to hide in plain sight.  Owned by Bandy Real Estate LLC, a family operated LLC located in Kingsland, TX.

af1

AF1 Racing

316 & 316 1/2 Cesar Chavez  – A lovely surface parking lot (sarcasm), adjacent to the Christian Science Reading Room. Public records indicated this is owned by Bloctavo Holdings / John Calhoun Miller, a real estate attorney in Texas. May be a registered agent.

the view of the lot looking to the north

the view of the lot looking to the north

102 / 104 Trinity – The Christian Science Reading Room, owned by the First Church of Christian Science.

front exterior of the Christian Science Reading Room

front exterior of the Christian Science Reading Room

Southwest Strategies has been marketing the assemblage of the southern half of Block 8, hoping to get a developer to build with a long-term ground lease.

They describe Block 8 as follows:

The Block 8 Tracts are an assemblage of 4 smaller tracts. Currently, the western portion of the property along San Jacinto is improved with a two story building containing 6,103 sq. ft. currently leased to a restaurant on a short term basis. The central part of the assemblage is improved with a one story building containing 5,320 sq. ft. Tenant is on a month-to-month lease. The eastern portion of the assemblage consists of a paved parking lot utilized for contract parking and an owner occupied one story building consisting of 4,161 sq. ft.

It’s true that the block sits on a prime redevelopment location.  It’s near the convention center, has CBD zoning, and “is unencumbered by any Capitol View Corridors.”

block-8-capitol-view-corridor

Per the Austin Business Journal, “City officials invested about $110 million to expand the convention center in 2002 by several city blocks.”

In their memo, the City states that it has already sent what’s called a Letter of Intent to Acquire to the property owners, and is also already throwing around eminent domain references (though the memo does state that the City will make a good faith attempt to acquire the properties at market value).

The above lots are just the first part of the plan.  From the Austin Monitor: “Rizer suggests the city will need to acquire ‘the equivalent of three to four City blocks‘ to accumulate enough room for the additional space.”

As a resident of downtown, the prospect that an additional three to four blocks of CBD zoned downtown Austin land, currently occupied by thriving businesses, would be annexed by a sprawling Convention Center is alarming.  This would divide downtown Austin using brute force malaise-era design principals.  The City should instead be investing in sustainable design that enhances the preciously compact pedestrian experience our downtown currently affords to residents and visitors.

I call BS on the dogma that Convention Centers can only expand horizontally.  City leadership should invite world class designers to show us a better path to expand vertically on the already significant Convention Center footprint.

-Jude





The Rainey Street House

The Rainey Street House

93-rainey-austin

It looks like Rainey Street District will be getting a history center!  The big question is: where will it go?

On June 12, 2014, Councilman Mike Martinez made a motion, which was amended by Councilman Chris Riley and passed a council vote to essentially read as follows:

Directs the City Manager to accept the donation of the structure formerly located at 93 Rainey St. from Austin Rainey St. D/E/P, LLC, a Delaware, LLC., for use as the Rainey Street History Center.

Here’s the house at 93 Rainey in 2012 (taken from my MEGA Rainey post from 2012) – standing on one of the sites where Dinerstein is building the Millenium Apartments.

The ~1600sf structure as it stands today:

93-rainey-austin

This structure, which will be refurbished using funds from the Rainey Street District Fund, will be placed on a TBD location within the next 180 days.

Currently, these three locations are being considered:

64 Rainey, 700 Cummings, and East Avenue – all pictured below:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There are pros and cons to each of these sites, and the Rainey Neighbors Association will be discussing all the issues, and likely selecting the location THEY endorse (several other stakeholders may need to agree, including the MACC and the Waller Creek Conservancy) on 10/21 at 6:30pm at the Towers of Town Lake Library. If you are an RNA member – you’re welcome to come to the meeting! Otherwise, submit your thoughts on these sites in the comments below!

For more information, download the attached presentation by Austin Parks and Rec: Rainey-Street-House





Downtown Austin Voting Guide

Downtown Austin Voting Guide

us-flag

We know you’ve heard this a bajillion-million times, but this year’s election on November 4, 2014,  is VERY important. Particularly for Downtown Austin, as the new 10-1 district system has the potential to really adversely affect policies that support a vibrant and growing downtown.

First things first – when, where, and how to vote:

When

The actual election is November 4, 2014, but EARLY VOTING starts Monday, October 20, 2014, (prompting some discussion between Jude and I as to what the real difference is between early voting and just regular voting).  Early voting runs through Halloween this year.

Where

Early Voting Locations: Oddly, there are no stations officially defined as “Early Voting” stations in downtown proper (weird, huh?) – but there are some MOBILE Voting locations downtown for Early Voting (sheesh – confusing, I know) – here are a few:

  • Mon 10/20/14 THROUGH Fri 10/31/14, 8am-7pm: Mobile Voting Station at ACC Rio Grande (1212 Rio Grande) – no voting station on Sun 10/26, and hours are 9am-6pm on Sat 10/25
  • Tues 10/21/14, 1pm-3pm: Mobile Voting station at Lakeside Senior Center (85 Trinity)
  • Mon 10/27/14 THROUGH Fri 10/31/14, 7am-7pm: Mobile Voting station at Austin City Hall (301 W 2nd)
  • Tues 10/28/14, 8am-5pm: Mobile Voting station at Travis County Commissioner’s Court (700 Lavaca)
  • Wed, 10/29/14 & Thurs 10/30/14, 8am-5pm: Mobile Voting station at HM Sweatt Travis County Courthouse (1000 Guadalupe)
  • Fri, 10/31/14, 8am-5pm: Mobile Voting station at the Sam Houston Building (201 E 14th St)

early-voting-austin-election

On November 4th:

  • Austin City Hall (301 W 2nd) – 7am-7pm
  • ACC Rio Grande (1212 Rio Grande) – 7am-7pm

Here’s a LIST of all the mobile voting locations, sorted by date. For a comprehensive map of ALL Early Voting, Mobile Voting, and Election Day Voting locations – click here.

How

Now, as to the ballot itself – we won’t go into every race, in the interest of everyone’s sanity, but, we will give an overview to  a couple of the downtown-related / pertinent issues:

There’s the General Gubernatorial ballot which has things like US Representatives, State Representatives, Judges, and County offices….

Then, there’s the CITY Ballot which will have some very important races for Downtown on it:

  • For District 9 (the district which includes downtown Austin), we personally support Chris Riley.  The Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association also supports this candidate.
  • For Proposition 1 (the “rail bond”), while there is quite a bit of debate about this bond, we think it’s important to note that the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association has given $4,000 in funds to the Let’s Go Austin political action committee, who has campaigned to support the bond. The Downtown Austin Alliance and the Austin American Statesman also support Prop 1.

Also, here’s a handy dandy tool you can use to remind your friends to Go Vote!

-Amber

 





Public Art and Austin Floods

Public Art and Austin Floods

art-in-public-spaces-lady-bird-lake-plaque

I recently wrote a little blurb on The People’s Gallery, a project that’s part of the Art in Public Places program by the City of Austin’s Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services department.  I’m a fan of the program, and think these types of City projects and programs help to make our city great!

That’s why I’d like to continue, from time to time, highlighting these little gems of public works in Downtown Austin. Today’s piece, I’m embarrassed to say, just came into my purview, even though I’m an almost daily runner of Lady Bird Lake’s 3 mile loop.

I happened to notice it the other day, and thought I’d share some shots of the work, particularly since they highlight some history of the lake and Austin.  The piece is done by Deborah Mersky and is called [Read more…]