It’s a warm and breezy Saturday night in Austin on Texas Relays Weekend. We did up a special store window at Wild About Music in Bob Marley + hip hop theme to welcome our 40,000-ish athletes, families and guests to town like every year. Daytime business was great, both Friday and today. But by 6pm things died off to nothingness and never revived by the time we normally close at 9pm. Totally deadsville. Absolutely not the norm for a weekend evening in Spring. So we hit the street to see wazzup. [Read more…] about “Welcome” to the Police State of 6ixth
Once again, KUT and the Downtown Austin Alliance will bring you the annual “Holiday Sing-Along and Downtown Stroll.” It’s now become an annual tradition. Last year an estimated 8,000 people attended. This year, with the beautiful weather expected Saturday evening, maybe 10,000 or more?
It’s all happening Saturday, Dec. 4th. KUT’s John Aielli will be on the south steps of the Capitol building leading Christmas carols beginning at 6PM. That is immediately followed by the lighting of the Capitol Tree on 11th Street, at the head of lower Congress Ave.
Then everyone takes a leisurely stroll down “The Main Street of Texas”, Congress Avenue where many businesses will be open late and have decked their halls and display windows in holiday style. One sidewalk-adjacent travel lane on each side of Congress will be closed to vehicle traffic from 11th to 6th streets to accommodate the crowds.
Along the Avenue you’ll discover loads of wonderful live entertainment in office building courtyards and on street corners. Refreshments, children’s activities, shopping, a Bicycle Zoo parade and more are also part of the merriment that will go on for a couple of hours.
There will even be a Santa’s Workshop. And the jolly big fella himself will be found holding court in the lobby of One American Center at 6th and Congress.
As long as you’re in the area, also make a point of taking in a few blocks of Historic East 6th Street too (before the Saturday night revelers show up after 9pm). East 6th looks lovely this time of year with holiday street decorations its entire length, the majestic Driskill Hotel all dressed out (don’t miss a peek inside), and many local businesses are showing their spirit.
What a fine night for a carriage ride around Downtown, too! The horses usually line up in front of the Driskill. (That’s a great photo-op, by the way.)
It is also requested that you share the spirit of the holidays by dropping off a jar of peanut butter at the downtown Christmas tree for Caritas to distribute to those in need.
This event is made possible by generous sponsorships from Whole Earth Provision Company, Goodwill Industries, The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum , Ballet Austin, InStep, Louis Shanks Home Furnishings.
(Compiled from information from the Downtown Austin Alliance and KUT. Capitol and caroler photos courtesy of the Austin American-Statesman. Driskill lobby photo in HDR courtesy of Trey Ratcliff, www.stuckincustoms.com)
Thanks to pal and Downtown commercial Realtor, Carl Daywood, I had opportunity to discover a terrific new little eatery in the Sixth Street Historic-Entertainment District. It’s called Carrob’s Cafe on Sabine, between 6th and 7th, essentially behind The Boiling Pot, where the former Texas Picnic Company was housed.
The name Carrob is derived from a combination of the owner’s first names, Carol Mitchell and Robert Barnes, a delightful couple who welcome guests with relaxed down-home friendliness, Austin style. It’s a bright and cheerful space with large windows looking out to both Sabine and Waller Creek.
The menu is basically all-breakfast all-the-time! And since that’s my favorite meal I couldn’t wait to dive in for a sampling. I had a couple of excellent breakfast tacos that were served in toasted tortillas and packed with my choice of 3 ingredients from among 21 selections offered — for only $1.99 each no less! Other options include egg platters, omelets, pancakes, biscuits & gravy and some killer-sounding breakfast burgers and club combinations.
In the drinks department, my iced mocha latte was also delicious and nicely made. The menu has all sorts of yummy coffees, teas, lemonade and sodas.
The full menu can be viewed here with an extra click-through: Carrob’s Menu.
For now, they are only open daytimes, 6 days a week: 7-5 Mon-Fri and 9-5 Sat; closed Sundays. Hopefully Carrob’s will quickly build enough traffic to warrant opening on Sundays too. And they would probably do well from midnight to 4am on Saturday and Sunday mornings if they actively promoted their existence up and down Sixth to the bar crowd to sober up before heading to their cars.
Stop by and check ’em out with a warm welcome to the neighborhood. I’ll add a photo or two as soon as I make it back by (which will be soon!) and remember to bring along my phone/camera.
In case you missed the news this past week, there is a significant new music venue slated to open New Year’s Eve on East 6th Street. Here’s a link to the Austin360 story by Michael Corcoran.
It’s called “The Stage” and is operated by a family out of Nashville with solid experience in producing quality live music venues there where they have four: The Stage on Broadway, Legends Corner, The Second Fiddle and Nashville Crossroads.
The Sanderson’s have been in Austin quite a bit over the past year checking out the scene and trying to find a fresh angle to success in our highly competitive market. They finally settled on 508 E. 6th, the largest single-space building for something like this on the street and former home to Bourbon Rocks and Fat Tuesday. (Maggie Mae’s is larger in overall square footage but it is chopped up into essentially four separate spaces on two levels.)
Longtime building owner Terry Boothe, who owns several properties on East 6th, had loads of offers from the typical fare of 25-cent-jello-shot bar operators. But he held tight for over two years without a tenant in order to bring a quality live music operator back to 6ixth and thus help the District’s quest to upgrade the quality of visitor experiences to be found there. The Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA) and 6ixth Street Austin property/business owners association assisted in landing this deal.
Live music is supposed to be presented on pretty much the same schedule as the Nashville clubs: starting as early as 2:00 in the afternoon on Mondays-Thursdays and at 11:00am on Friday-Sunday. That should provide a welcome flow of new work for Austin’s large and talented musician community. The Stage will reportedly also serve food too.
My only caveat is that I hope The Stage will program live music with distinctly Austin and Texas-centric flavor, not a heavy Nashville bent. If you take a look at the websites for the Nashville clubs, the offerings seem a tad “formulaic” — pretty much the same stuff done under four different names, not unlike the tight-jeans-and-cowboy-hat processed “country” music that Nashville itself often cranks out. I hope the Sanderson’s and manager, Brandon Reineke, challenge themselves further in what they do in Austin.
While country is certainly one of our basic music food groups down here, the great country-flavored sounds coming out of Texas span so much greater breadth…quickly flowing into country rock, roots rock, folk, bluegrass, swing and so much more. Even Willie regularly crosses into jazz and blues in his sets regardless of what type of club or festival he is playing.
Would you label Robert Earl Keen, Joe Ely, Jimmy Lafave, Ray Benson, Carolyn Wonderland, Marcia Ball as “country”? Hardly. Yet these are the sorts of all-star Austin acts that I hope will be regularly presented as headliners on the stage at The Stage — for a decent ticket price and full-priced drinks — to provide visitors to The Live Music Capital with a truly memorable show to savor when they head home.
However it shakes out, The Stage is clearly a welcome addition to the music offerings Downtown and on East 6th. As a business owner just a few blocks west of the new venue I can attest that the area is streaming with people all day long these days, 7 days a week, looking for things to do and seeking that globally heralded Austin vibe and live music reputation. Between the Convention Center, all the great Downtown hotels, and our many new urban residents, business has never been better.
Now…if only we can lure Antone’s back to East 6th where that legendary venue began, then we’d really have some live music anchor tenants to brag about again! Gotta work on that some more. 🙂
For something very fresh and different this weekend to drown our mundane laborous lives, check out these cool events on tap ’round the hood:
The 1St Annual Austin Street Magic Festival TONIGHT, 6th & Red River next to Esther’s Follies (home of our own fantabulous, Ray Anderson), 6pm-2am and FREE!
And that’s just the warm up.
Here’s a news story from News 8.
And also more info to be found on the pages of Austin corporate lawyer (but always a magician at heart — and skill), Hull Youngblood. You can check him out — and be his friend — via the TAOM Facebook link above!
Much fun for all so make like a bunny and vanish your abode already!
Over the past few weeks, an interesting “struggle” has been growing between Austinites on the issue of whether the Best Wurst sausage cart should have its sidewalk permit renewed to vend in front of Parkside Restauarant. The scene is the southeast corner of East 6th Street at San Jacinto, the heart of the East 6th Historic & Entertainment District.
Best Wurst has been selling yummy treats from its cart there for 17 years and has grown quite a popular customer following. The owner, Jon Notarthomas, is a hard-working Austin musician and entrepreneur. He pays $450 per year for the vending permit and transacts tens of thousands of dollars in business from his cart.
Parkside is a lovely fine-cuisine restaurant that opened in the circa-1920 building where Dan McKlusky’s steakhouse previously existed. Shawn Cirkiel, the chef, and his Austin family purchased their building, valued by TCAD at $1.6 million, and completely renovated the property when opening the restaurant a couple of years ago.
Sidewalk vending permits must be renewed every 3 years and it is now that time for Best Wurst. Parkside is opposing the renewal. There are many reasons involved but the basic one is simply “incompatibility”. This restuarant is not happy with having another food vendor directly outside of its front door. City officials are caught in the middle.
There are many opposing perspectives arising through discussions of this matter:
“Old/Iconic Austin” versus “New/Emerging Austin”.
Upscale dining versus inexpensive street food.
Property owner rights versus temporary permitted uses.
Large investments and big taxes on property+liquor+sales versus modest investments, small fees and sales tax only.
The sensibilities of Austin’s sidewalk vending permit process versus national best-practices for kiosk-style vending in public common areas.
The growing desire for East 6th to revitalize itself to make better 24/7 use of its century-old historic district presence versus maintaining its more recent four-decade reputation as “Dirty 6th” where young folks go to get shitfaced.
Phew. That’s a lot to take in right there.
What do you think about all of this?
Loads of media coverage and other resources available if you’d like to absorb further before weighing in: News story on the Austin American-Statesman’s Austin 360. TV coverage on News 8, Fox News and KXAN. Best Wurst’s website and its new Save The Wurst Facebook site with some 3,000 fans. Parkside’s website.
Part 2 of 2 Parts (click here to read Part 1 – The Overview of the project and its design)
1. It is not a “boardwalk”. Look closely. It is an elevated concrete human highway. 14-feet wide, 6-feet above the water, up to 70 feet out from shore. Built of concrete and steel. Out over the open waters of our beautiful and naturally pristine lake/river.
2. Cheaper alternatives exist. Either fully on land, closer to land, or a combination of both. With specifications that start with the minimum specs of the existing Trail: the Hyatt Regency segment, 5 to 6 feet wide, between the First Street and Congress Avenue bridges. This CAN be built across nearly the entire 1.2 mile stretch. For far less cost. However the necessary analysis and conceptual design work has never been done. The necessary conversations have never been had.
3. The “full project cost” could actually be over $20 million. Nearly $4.3 million has already been allocated toward consultants and design over the past two years out of existing city budgets of which $2.4 million has been spent or obligated to date. Plus the $16 million more now sought for construction. All for 1.2 miles of roadway. This road should be paved with gold.
4. This project does not “complete” the trail gap. It will lead users east along the shoreline to the Longhorn Dam. That dam has a narrow and dangerous sidewalk crossing – where two strollers can barely pass each other over the Dam – alongside heavy traffic flow on Pleasant Valley Road. Clearly a “Pfluger-style” pedestrian bridge needs to be built parallel to the west side of the dam. A very expensive bridge. Then there is another “gap” on the North Shore around the former Holly Power Plant. Those segments? Not addressed.
5. The cleverly packaged and named “Boardwalk” is itself a hazardous solution for the need it is trying to fill and the improved safety it is attempting to yield. True, the existing sidewalk-based trail routing along Riverside Drive has a challenging crossing at IH-35 and some close proximity to road traffic. Interestingly, though, no ped-bike-vehicle accidents statistics have ever been produced. Folks know they must be very careful getting through there. But the 14-foot wide Boardwalk over-design intentionally promotes high-speed, two-abreast, bicycle traffic…in two directions…out over the open river waters…in direct conflict with pedestrians, strollers, wheelchairs, dog-walkers, and others who would also be on the same pathway. There is nowhere to jump out of the way of danger. There is no easy way to reach injured parties. There is no shade out in the open water.
Some folks have been asking how this project came to be? Good question. Please read on…
Part 1 of 2 Parts – The Overview
If you browsed the Austin American-Statesman or Austin Business Journal yesterday, no doubt you saw the headlines:
At first glance, it might sound like an appealing proposition, this Boardwalk project. What’s not to like?
The term “boardwalk” itself conjures up images of a pretty little wooden footbridge traversing burbling creeks and meandering through soggy sections of beautiful dense forest. It’s a project of the Parks Department, and we all do love our parks, yes?
Finding a way to “extend” Downtown Austin’s wonderful riverfront hike-bike path through one of the sections where it currently follows a narrow sidewalk along a busy road, Riverside Drive — well, that sounds like a no-brainer, too, right? At least to those of us who frequent the Town Lake Trail multiple times a week.
(Sidenote for those of you paying attention: City Council changed the name of the urban portion of the river from Town Lake to Lady Bird Lake after the former First Lady and Trail Founder passed away in 2007. The name of “the simple walking path along the shore” that she envisioned back in 1971 is still called the Town Lake Trail in Parks Department materials. Hard to tell what to properly call it.)
And $85 million, though it’s a big number for a still-sluggish economic recovery, nevertheless is a comparatively small chunk of change when you apply that spend against a truckload of “transportation projects”. Concrete and asphalt don’t come cheap.
To find the serious problems in this equation I’m afraid there’s no substitute for having to dive into the details. As with so many of life’s problems and issues, that’s where the devil is hiding. Let’s take a look.
First off there’s the topline math. $16 million for a single project — one that is a luxury add and carries no financial ROI with it — out of a total $85 million bonding capacity. That’s almost one-fifth of the total ask! For just one project. According to the ABJ story, the Transportation Department and the Bond Review Task Force were charged with evaluating 500 projects that had to be divided into “A,” “B” and “C” categories.
The “A” list of “highest priority” projects added up to about 45 and still carried an estimated total cost between $2 billion and $3 billion, three to four times the total bonding capacity. Somehow the Boardwalk, in its totality, made it to the further shortened list of “A” projects left standing. What about the other 480 or so projects? What about all the other regions of the city and their transportation, sidewalk, pothole and trail needs?
Then there is the matter of the Boardwalk project itself. While it hasn’t been an entirely secretive endeavor, its details have been less than well publicized or understood by the broad Austin citizenry, that’s for sure. For the past three years, this project has been marching its determined way through the city conceptual and design process, rubber-stamped by two unanimous city councils every step of the way, and fueled by almost $4.3 million in dedicated allocations out of the past couple city budgets. For the past year, that’s been a reported spend rate of about $40,000 per week for consultants, plans and documentation.
Next let’s check out this purported Boardwalk and find out what it’s really made of using the City’s own slides from its presentation decks. The following pictures are quite self-explanatory.
How can this be?
There are no boards in this boardwalk!
The entire battleship structure is made of concrete and steel!
And it’s out IN the friggin’ river!
And that, friends, is how we end up with something like THIS rather than the “simple walking path along the shore” that Lady Bird Johnson had sought.
Can’t help but wonder: what would she think of all this?
Though about a year out of date now, what information the city has provided on this project can be found here. There is some bare bones stuff there about the proposed routing, construction materials and answers to about 20 FAQs. Check it out.
One option is to walk the edge of the waterline and pickup trash from the land. If you’d like to work it from the water itself, canoes and kayaks are also available (loaned by our local schools/clubs).
Trash bags and grabbers are provided at several staging areas along the river. The whole event is organized by Keep Austin Beautiful with help from the Sierra Club and many others.
Full details and registration can be found here.
It’s a great way to meet like-minded new folks and know that you are doing some true good for our water-loving lifestyle in Austin. There’s much more to the overall event that you can read about on the KAB link. See you there!
EVERY Downtown Austin condo tower and parking garage should apply to get one of these. FREE while supplies last!
From the June 2nd Statesman story: “Electric vehicles aren’t yet common on Austin roads. But recharging stations could start showing up on local streets and in home garages later this year. A Silicon Valley-based company has received a $15 million federal stimulus grant to provide, for free, nearly 5,000 charging stations in Austin and eight other areas across the country. Businesses and homeowners alike can apply to receive one of the stations. Austin is one of nine regions serving as a kind of pilot for the charging stations.” READ MORE HERE