Leasing ABIA = urban rail?
Getting better public transportation is so centric to the future of downtown, it always surprises me that there are not more occasions to write about it. In Austin, our current plan is called “urban rail” and it has almost become this amorphous type of buzz-word over the years. If you asked ten people “what is the urban rail plan?” I bet you would get 10 answers (or more likely you’d get seven blank stares and three answers).
The long-short of urban rail is this: It is a project the old Austin mayor (Will Wynn) pitched for downtown, and one that our current mayor (Lee Leffingwell) keeps bringing up, but no other council members, or any of our main business groups, ever seem to get very vocal about.
A little while ago, the Statesman reported that City Council was hot to trot to get something passed by voters before we switch our council makeup from seven-at-large members, to ten district members and one at-large, but we have still not seen very much action.
Suddenly, this week, the Statesman reported that Mayor Leffingwell is proposing a plan to lease out our airport, aka “ABIA”, in order to fund urban rail.
KUT did a follow up that notes airports in Chicago and Puerto Rico have leased their airports, but six others abandoned the privatization idea after pursuing it.
Downtown adds more retail
Toy Joy, one of the coolest shops in the city, has been up near UT for years, announced it is moving to downtown, just below the Violet Crown on Second Street.
Recently another shop, Consuela, opened up at Ninth and Congress.
This is exciting news for downtown, because retail shopping – regardless of our personal preferences – is a vital component to a thriving urban ecosystem.
Eighth and Neches hotel to be eight stories
I’ve done a couple posts about this hotel, but we finally have some specs on the new hotel across from Stubbs on Red River and 8th St.
The developer plans demolish the existing 117-space (hideous-looking) garage and build three stories of parking into the sloped lot with a five-story hotel above.
The $30 million project would bring about another 200 rooms to downtown. Given that this site is just a few blocks south of the proposed medical school, I think it is a smart play.