Urban Exploration: Austin - Day 2

May 06, 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: Business & Cultural Districts

Our group spoke with Nicole Klepadlo, Austin City's Economic Development, Redevelopment Project Manager, Cody Cowan from the Red River Cultural District and Brandon Hodge with the South Congress District about Austin's cultural and business districts. Some districts have developed successfully in Salt Lake City, such as 9th & 9thGranary, and Central Ninth, and efforts could be focused on concentrated areas of downtown. The Broadway and Depot Districts as outlined in Salt Lake City's Downtown Community Plan could both benefit from more cohesive district shaping efforts. Additional opportunity areas include Gallivan, Pierpont, and the emerging dining & nightlife corridor along Main Street between 300 and 400 South, among others. Collective branding, promotion, and placemaking would effectively develop district destinations rather than isolated destinations as is largely experienced now -- people would come downtown for one thing, but then stay downtown for others.

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Austin's Visitor Economy

Each year 27.4 million visitors (like us!) choose Austin for conventions, meetings and leisure tourism, generating $8 billion in annual economic impact. During a stop at the Austin Convention Center, we learned from local leaders Tom Noonan of Visit Austin, Mark Tester, of the Austin Convention Center about how they are growing their visitor economy. We also heard from Visit Salt Lake's Scott Beck to get a feel for the convention and tourism industry here in Salt Lake. 

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Lunch @ Google Fiber | Smart Infrastructure in Downtown Development

Before sitting down for lunch, our group had the opportunity to tour the Google Fiber Space. Our lunch panel will focused on the role of technology and smart infrastructure in developing a vibrant downtown. The discussion emphasized the role of improved communications and information capacity, the significance of developing smart innovation and interactivity in neighborhoods, and the work that cities and government can play in understanding and adopting modern infrastructure. We heard from thought leaders such as Mini Kahlon with the Dell Medical School, Kathie Tovo - Austin Councilmember who represents downtown, SLC Councilmember Charlie Luke and Danny Lucio with Google Fiber.
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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!

Street Ambassador Orientation & Affordable Housing Approach

Our group visited Capital Studios to learn about Foundation Communities' innovative approach to affordable housing with built-in health and other supportive services for residents. On our way to Capital Studios, we experienced the Downtown Austin Alliance Downtown Austin Ambassadors in action as they escorted us along the way to share information and metrics for their safety, maintenance and hospitality services.
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Mobility in Downtown Austin

This roundtable discussed the successes, challenges and new concepts in mobility solutions for Austin residents, commuters and employers alike. We reviewed the Downtown Austin Parking Strategy and heard from representatives from the Downtown Austin AllianceNelson\NygaardMovability AustinCity of Austin Smart Mobility, and Bike Share of Austin

Economic Impact of Festivals & Community Events

Austin's culture is world-renowned for its vibrancy, in no small part thanks to the number of festival and community events. Some of the primary among these are SXSW and Austin City Limits. These festivals also generate an enormous economic impact and international recognition. These organizers shared how these events have grown to attract millions of visitors and how they continue to scale within the limits of an urban center. We also looked at some of the other festivals in Austin to see an economic impact analysis for these types of events. Speakers included Omar Lozano | Visit Austin, Director of Music Marketing, Catlin Whitington | SXSW, Manager - Planning,  Emmett Beliveau | ACL, COO and Angelos Angelou | AngelouEconomics, CEO/Chief Strategist. 

Closing Reception and Lesson Learned @ La Condesa

The 2019 Urban Exploration trip formally concluded at La Condesa where attendees discussed lessons learned and enjoyed one last night in Austin, Texas.
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