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Downtown Austin Businesses Struggled Over The Last 13 Months, But Many Are Still Betting On The Neighborhood's Future

Construction cranes on the downtown Austin city skyline as seen from Lady Bird Lake on Jan. 11, 2021.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Downtown Austin

Downtown Austin businesses have struggled since the start of the pandemic, but will see a return to their status as a key economic engine soon, according to a new report.

Of the 740 storefronts open pre-pandemic, 88 have closed permanently, the report released Wednesday by the Downtown Austin Alliance found. The nonprofit partnership of business owners, community groups and others said it's unsure of the status of another 96 stores. That could mean as many as 25% of these businesses closed as of February.

Ten live music venues downtown also closed, according to the DAA's census.

With an end to the pandemic in sight, though, people are still betting on downtown: Marriott added 1,000 hotel rooms last month; 28 buildings are under construction; and another 32 are planned.

SODT21_Presentation - Downtown Development.jpg
Downtown Austin Alliance
Graphic of proposed development in downtown Austin from the Downtown Austin Alliance "State of Downtown" 2021 report.

“All indicators at this point show that past momentum will continue," Jennell Moffett, director of research and analysis with the DAA, said. "There’s clearly optimism and opportunity that sparks interest in so many people. We must continue to plan and prepare for their arrival.”

To prepare, developers have more residential units under construction right now than were completed over the last five years. Demand for housing downtown is the same today as it was pre-pandemic, with rents rising an average of 15 cents per square foot.

Jimmy is a reporter focusing on business, sports, and the odd. He is also an afternoon host on KUT and currently serving as Interim Program Director. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @maasdinero.
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