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:

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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

 





Downtown Austin Goes For The Goal – and the Gold!

Downtown Austin Goes For The Goal – and the Gold!

An Amazing New Vision for Downtown Austin

If you haven’t yet read this week’s edition of The Austin Chronicle – and seen the amazing front page photo/rendering – please check it out at once here! Stupendous reporting by Senior News Editor, Michael King, of breaking news regarding a multi-billion dollar plan to build a Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium in the middle of Lady Bird Lake, coupled with the new Light Rail line running straight through the center of the stadium as the train crosses the river.

[Read more...]





List of Google Fiber Proposed “Community Connection” Sites Released

List of Google Fiber Proposed “Community Connection” Sites Released

Google Fiber logo

In an update to the story below… Austin City Council elected to postpone adoption of the List of 100 Community Connection Sites until its Dec. 12th meeting saying they wanted to review and tweak the list some more with Google.  KUT has more on Council activity here.

Also floating around out there in the Fibersphere is this post from Google Fiber Chief, Mark Strama, that discusses how the construction process is being envisioned as it makes its way around the city starting sometime mid 2014.

ORIGINAL STORY – Here is a link to the PDFs of the LIST & Council RESOLUTION of Proposed Google Fiber Community Connection Sites coming before City Council tomorrow, November 21st.

And here are those sites neatly MAPPED courtesy of KUT.

After spending only about five minutes reviewing the list, some inexplicable glaring omissions would include:

  • University of Texas – the 40 acres and other facilities like the Pickle research campus, ATI, IC2, etc.
  • Austin Community College – all of their campuses and, in particular, the new Highland Center that will be a major central city magnet for the tech and creative industries over the next 5+ years.
  • Austin Studios – film and production facilities on East 51st St
  • Hospitals in our emerging health care services growth cluster
  • …and no doubt much more!

How is this possible? These are all mega bandwidth users and fit the criteria for inclusion in the Community Connectedness program of public service locations intended for free Fiber service.  St. Edward’s, Huston-Tillotson, Concordia are all on there – appropriately – but not UT or ACC.  Seriously?





Why Are Prices Surging At The Railyard Condos?

Why Are Prices Surging At The Railyard Condos?

The Railyards Unit 235

The Railyard condos are unique.  The two low-rise buildings sit on two of the best sites in downtown Austin, and have usually been more affordable than the newer, sexier high-rises.  Part of the appeal is location: situated across from the Austin Convention Center, 100 feet from the MetroRail, one block from Congress Avenue, three blocks from competing luxury towers, the Austonian and Four Seasons.  The Railyard has enviable proximity to most anything in downtown Austin.

Remember last year’s NIMBY fury over Austin’s Short Term Rental ordinance (pdf)?

You would be in good company if you assumed that all of downtown Austin’s condos and apartments were making money on STRs.

You would be wrong, though.  

Downtown condos have home owners associations (HOAs).  HOAs have rules, and in downtown Austin those rules are usually antagonistic to short term rentals.  Breaking those rules could result in a $1000 per day fine by the HOAs.  Despite the fact that the STR ordinance does not regulate apartments and condominiums, last year’s fight with the City of Austin to regulate STRs wasn’t going to impact most of us living in downtown because of these HOA rules. [UPDATE: rules have been revised to cap STR permits in CBD multi-family buildings at 25%]

The Railyard condos are very, very unique.

This past November, just a month after Austin’s new Short Term Rental ordinance took effect, an enterprising Railyard owner recognized the Railyard’s bylaws did not forbid short term rentals and put together a fund to purchase several units.

The investment rationale is simple: opening up your condo as a vacation-rental-by-owner (aka. VRBO) during SXSW, ACL, F1 (just to name just the big opportunities, not to mention conventions) can yield more rent during those events than the total rent from a typical 12 month lease!  Same for Railyard owner-occupants who can lease their place out for a few nights, take a vacation, and make a couple thousand bucks.

The economics of Railyard ownership shifted overnight. Word quickly spread to the owners and a handful of Austin Realtors.  In the previous year (Nov 2011 – Nov 2012), 1bd/1ba units at the Railyard condos were trading at an average of $285/foot, and units with at least 2bd/2ba units were trading at an average of $275/foot. [UPDATE: one year after posting this article, the last recorded MLS sale at Railyard was a building record $415/foot]

Going forward, expect sale prices at the Railyard condos to be 20-25% more than last year, reflecting the new economics of embracing downtown short term rentals.  Owner-occupants are getting in on the action, too.

Offering the flexibility to lease your condo on a short term basis is a privilege that makes the Railyard unique among downtown condos.   This privilege has significant value.

STRs can be a win-win for owners and associations.  The key is balance and monitoring the impact on residents.

The Railyard HOA is smart to approach STRs with reasonableness and attach fees to the process.  These extra fees will help fund their operations, building improvements, and keep HOA dues low for homeowners.  Homeowners, who are also able to capitalize on their property.

I’ll stop short of advocating that all downtown buildings should permit STRs – I don’t agree with that.  However, there are several buildings that should be paying attention to what the Railyard is doing.  It seems reasonable for more HOAs to experiment with loosening their STR rules, monitor the process, use the money for building improvements, and course correct as needed.

-Jude

[updated 06/01/2014: It has been discovered that Brazos Place Condos at 8th Street & Brazos Street is doing something similar by permitting one-month minimum lease terms.]





B-Cycle Chosen For Austin Bike Share Program

B-Cycle Chosen For Austin Bike Share Program

austin-b-cycle

The Downtown Austin Blog has confirmed that B-cycle is the bike company of choice for the new Austin Bike Share program.

DAB reported last week that three companies had submitted proposals to supply Austin Bike Share equipment. We don’t know who yet else applied, but there is some small comfort in knowing that the people in San Antonio seem quite pleased with B-cycle, where they are growing from 30 stations to 45 stations. (Check out their San Antonio rates and coverage here.) B-cycle implementation has been successful in 15 other major cities, including Denver, San Antonio, and Houston and the city aims to have the bike share program operable by late spring 2013.

Here’s Here are some more details on what to expect in Austin:

[Read more...]





Austin Bike Share Enters the Homestretch

Austin Bike Share Enters the Homestretch

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It’s been almost two and a half years since I started advocating for Austin Bike Share in the state capital.  It became the highest rated of any SpeakUpAustin initiative, ever.  Because of incredible grassroots support, generous financial support by several local businesses, and hard work by City staff, Austin Bike Share is finally happening for Austin.

Austin City Council this week is expected to approve an important step in the process, which will allow the city to form a partnership with nonprofit Bike Share of Austin to operate the bike share program.

The City and Bike Share of Austin are aiming to have the bike share program up and running by spring 2013. A separate contract with a bike share vendor for the purchase of bicycles, kiosks, and the bike share system network is scheduled to come to City Council for approval at the next scheduled council meeting, which would be Jan. 31.

It has long been rumored around town that Austin is going to pick B Cyclethe same bike share operator as San Antonio, to supply the bike share system for Austin.  San Antonio’s system is a phenomenal success and expanding.

According to the City, the bike share will bring about 40 bike share kiosks, with as many as 400 bikes, to Central Austin area.  That’s a good start.

jude-bike-shareIt was around 2009, when traveling in Montreal, that I was first introduced to a robust bike share system. That system was called BIXI, but it was the same bike design used in Minneapolis.  The system works impressively well.  You can become a member, or pay-as-you-go. The three-geared bikes are comfortable and well maintained.

That Austin’s Bike Share initiative seems to be heading for the final stretch is superb news, and I’d like to thank all of our City Council members and all the folks at the city who are working to make this happen.

We can expect a draft map of the locations within the next couple of months.

I’ve learned that City staff’s process of identifying possible sites for bike share kiosks is based on several criteria:

  • Proximity of bike infrastructure such as bike lanes or cycle tracks
  • High employment density
  • Nearby parks, recreation facilities, tourist attractions, or other destination
  • Favorable topography
  • Public transit services

Get it out there.

For the sake of getting bike share off the ground, I really hope the City doesn’t let perfection get in the way of progress.  I, myself, would be in favor of a phased launch and the City says, “we are putting half the stations in these spots. Deal with it.  However, we would like to hear from the public about where we get the other stations set up at.”

That would get Austin Bike Share rolling, with kiosks being put into the ground, instead of letting all the zealots debate the minutia and delaying having something the public can actually use.

-Jude





Mayor’s Chief of Staff Exits And Why You Should Care

Mayor’s Chief of Staff Exits And Why You Should Care

austin city hall

Casual observers of city hall, at first glance, might take little notice that Mark Nathan, Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s chief of staff, has announced his departure.

But it is a noteworthy event whenever an executive politician’s chief of staff exits. A chief of staff is the one who gets stuff done, while their boss is smiling for the camera. The office of chief of staff and the person holding it become synonymous.

To that point, the mayor said on his own website “Mark has been a driving force behind almost every major initiative we’ve undertaken.”

As a nerdish observer of City Hall, which is one level above casual, I can read into that a few ways, but the simplest is just to look at three things the mayor’s office has pushed in the past 12-16 months: A new downtown hotel, an urban rail system and the United States Grand Prix F1 race. (As for the F1 race, one could say Lee isn’t a “pusher” maybe just an adamant supporter. He was the only council member who wanted to approve the contract about 60 days ago, when his six other colleagues — including Randi Shade on her last day — voted to postpone the vote under threats it could blow the entire deal. That’s telling.) [Read more...]





Based on information from the Austin Board of REALTORS ® (alternatively, from ACTRIS) for the period through 10/30/14 11:59 PM PDT. Neither the Board nor ACTRIS guarantees or is in any way responsible for its accuracy. All data is provided “AS IS” and with all faults. Data maintained by the Board or ACTRIS may not reflect all real estate activity in the market.

Information being provided is for consumers’ personal, non-commercial use and may not be used for any purpose other than to identify prospective properties consumers may be interested in purchasing.

This IDX solution is (c) Diverse Solutions 2014.