Urban Exploration: Austin - Day 1

May 03, 2019 Written by

The Downtown Alliance can learn from the successes of other neighborhoods and downtowns throughout the country. The Urban Exploration program brings public and private sector leaders together to learn about the best practices of other cities. This is the sixth in a series of annual trips sponsored by the Downtown Alliance to build relationships and learn from the success of other communities.

The Urban Exploration program is a working trip focused on building relationships and inspiring innovation in downtown Salt Lake City. This year's urban exploration participants will learn about downtown Austin's recently completed developments, nightlife economy, the visitor economy, public arts, parks and much more. 

This is the sixth in a series of annual trips sponsored by the Downtown Alliance to build relationships and learn from the success of other communities: we visited New York in 2014, Chicago in 2015, San Francisco in 2016, Boston in 2017 and Minneapolis in 2018. 

Austin's Urban Development - Past, Present & Future:

Our group started off the day by meeting with members of the Downtown Austin Alliance to discuss the surge of development Austin has experienced over the past 10 years. We had the pleasure of speaking with Dewitt Peart, Downtown Austin Alliance President & CEO and Mike Kennedy, Downtown Austin Alliance Board Chair. Our group learned about several notable developments that have recently been completed and dozens of planned commercial and residential projects that are helping to fuel Austin's nation-leading growth. 
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Waller Creek - Activation Through Public-Private Partnerships:

After hearing from our friends at the Downtown Austin Alliance, our group headed over to the Waller Creek Conservancy to learn more about the public-private partnership that is helping to revitalize the Red River Cultural District of Austin. We heard from John Rigdon, Waller Creek Conservancy's Director of Planning and Design and Meredith Bossin, Director of Engagement about the progress that has taken place with this exciting project. Our presenters provided a glimpse of the project's history and planning of park developments along with some of their community programs. We also had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the construction progress and view the New Monuments installation at Waterloo Park. 
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Lunch at Stubbs and the Austin Nightlife Economy:

After calling the meeting to order with a Bad Brad Wheeler harmonica performance, we learned about leveraging our Nighttime Economy: from economic to cultural to social. The impact of a city's nighttime economy should be both a point of civic pride and a star of economic development initiatives. We heard from Cody Ross Cowan, a local with a lifetime of the Austin music scene experience (Red River Cultural District) and from Elizabeth Cawein with Sound Diplomacy, a leading consultant helping governments and businesses achieve their social, cultural and economic goals using music as a tool. A nighttime economy can help drive economic growth, tourism, sustainability and vibrancy of cities.
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Afternoon Tours:

Our lunch at Stubbs was followed by several optional activities that were strategically selected projects and initiatives that correlate to emerging initiatives and trends in downtown Salt Lake City – with a little bit of fun mixed in for good measure!

Capital Factory Tour:
Capital Factory has developed a unique ecosystem of a startup pipeline, developing entrepreneurs into startups and eventually corporations. We toured the programs and resources available, including brief pitches from Capital Factory companies and a VR experience. This was followed with a panel presentation from Kim Abrams with Goldman Sachs, Kwee Lan Teo with the Austin Chamber and Janet Huang with UT Austin. This panel was focused on workforce development in Austin, including how Capital Factory has been able to contribute to the startup economy. We heard perspectives from the university, public, and private sectors about strategies for talent recruitment and retention, and how the unique nature of Austin's business and cultural climates have impacted those efforts. 
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Art Walking Tour:
We joined Kristian Anderson for an amble to some of downtown Austin's most selfie and 'gram worthy works of art as we talked about the role of public art, art in the public, and tackled that elusive term “iconic". The 3.9-mile route around downtown Austin included:
Big Chiller BluesLong Live ArtWillie Nelson StatueAustin City HallOpen Room Austin, Gables Park Plaza, Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue and 300 1/2 Congress Ave. 
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Urban Redevelopment District Tour:
We took a closer look at some of the significant redevelopment projects that have taken place in the downtown area. 2nd Street District and Seaholm (Virtual Tour) were the areas of focus for this exciting, on-the-ground tour. The City of Austin's Economic Development Department and Redevelopment Agency provided a customized tour of these redeveloped areas along with AMLI, the city's development and retail partner.
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