Downtown

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

The city has given the go-ahead to a contract that would keep its portable public toilet operating for the next five years. The 24-hour toilet, which aims to keep the downtown area clean over special events like this weekend's Austin City Limits Festival, will cost Austin $115,000 this year.  

Sarah Jasmine Montgomery for KUT

Both the Austin Municipal Court and the Community Court buildings downtown were evacuated this morning after a bomb threat. The evacuations came after threats at UT Austin and Texas State University. 

Martin do Nascimento

A free public restroom has been installed downtown near I-35 and Sixth Street to help tourists, runners, bikers, homeless people and late-night crowds. 

Does Austin Need a Bigger Convention Center?

Aug 26, 2016
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

City leaders are considering a plan to expand the Austin Convention Center, but some question how much the entire city would benefit from the project.


Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

This year's heavy rains and severe thunderstorms have city officials asking Austin’s small business owners to set aside time to prepare for natural disasters and emergencies.

David Hook was working at his furniture store last year when floodwaters began seeping in from under the door. He was able to move a lot of the merchandise out of the water’s way.


flickr/nomadicsun

The City of Austin is considering adding some structures to the downtown landscape: 24-hour public restrooms.

But, the initiative could benefit more than just tourists stuck downtown without a place to go. 


Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

About two months ago, Miguel Alfonso moved to Texas from the East Coast and wound up in Austin. He was looking for work, and in the meantime was sleeping in his car, which he would park downtown. Then his car was towed. He couldn't afford to get it back from impound, so he began sleeping on the street at night, usually downtown, usually near 6th and Nueces.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Last week downtown Austin music venue Holy Mountain announced it will close its doors this fall because of rising rent prices. Advocates say more music venues will begin to fall as Austin rents increase — the club's neighbor Red 7 is also staring down a rent hike. So some Austinites and out of town music-boosters are floating a solution.

A 500-plus signature petition on change.org is proposing a simple solution to the Austin City Council: rent control. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Tens of thousands of bikers and motorcycle enthusiasts have descended upon Austin for this year's Republic of Texas Biker Rally, and tonight they'll swarm downtown for a procession that will shut down 54 square blocks.

The bikers will ride along a nearly ten-mile parade route stretching from the Travis County Expo Center all the way to the intersection of Congress and Cesar Chavez. The bikers at the end of the procession won't leave the Expo Center until the first bikers have already arrived at the end of the route.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

From the Austin Monitor:

Following the release of a report stating that Austin commercial property in Travis County is “significantly undervalued,” City Council is considering an appraisal challenge that could reduce the burden on residential property taxpayers.

Council discussed the potential move at a Tuesday work session, during which Budget Office and Law Department staff said the city would have to file a petition with the state’s Appraisal Review Board by June 1 in order to move forward this year.

If the independent board were to rule in favor of the city, the Travis Central Appraisal District would have to reappraise the Austin commercial properties for which it is responsible, potentially increasing their valuation.

Miguel Gutierrez, Jr./KUT

For the past 10 years, the Austin skyline’s been in a state of constant flux. In the past year alone, two towers have gone up in the downtown area: the Colorado Tower and the IBC Bank Plaza. Those two buildings, which combine for nearly 570,000 square feet in office and retail space, were all but leased by the time they opened their doors.

But, for some buildings, the wait is a little longer.

For some buildings – like the former headquarters of La Bare on Riverside Drive, the boxy little historic building at Congress and Riverside just down the road, and even some properties in the heart of Downtown Austin, just a few blocks from the Capitol – the wait is seemingly interminable, leaving daily passersby wondering why such high-value real estate lies vacant in the middle of a Austin’s development boom.

Miguel Gutierrez, Jr. for KUT Austin

Austin prides itself on being the live music capital of the world — anywhere you go, there's music, even just walking down the street. But the city’s buskers — not just the musicians, but also the magicians, bucket drummers, jugglers and others who perform for spare change on the city’s sidewalks — are operating in a legal gray area.

flickr.com/photos/mrlaugh

Austin's downtown traffic flow will change starting next month. The City of Austin is converting Brazos Street from one way to a two way street between East Cesar Chavez and East Sixth streets. 

Austin Transportation Department Director Rob Spillar says a number of cities have gone through this process to slow traffic.

Via Mark Stevens, flickr.com/photos/14723335@N05/

From the Austin Monitor:

Plans to convert downtown’s Seventh, Eighth, Brazos and Colorado streets from one-way to two-way streets are underway.

On Monday, City Council’s Comprehensive Planning and Transportation Committee heard a presentation on a timeline for the change from acting Transportation Department Assistant Director Jim Dale.

“A lot of cities have gone through this process, of being two-way initially, then going to one-way to help move capacity to move a lot more vehicles,” said Dale. “But as we start to look at the pedestrian realm and looking at the complete streets … the two-way conversion does lend itself to a more pedestrian-friendly environment, with a tendency to slow down traffic.”

Endeavor Real Estate/Columbus Realty Partners/Capital Metro

Update: Capital Metro has chosen a developer for its Plaza Saltillo project, spanning 11-acres that used to be a downtown rail yard.

The team led by Austin-based Endeavor Real Estate and Dallas’s Columbus Realty was awarded the project at the Capital Metro Board of Directors meeting yesterday. Capital Metro will have the final say on the design. Read below for more.

Original story (May 21): What does the future hold for East Austin's Plaza Saltillo? This week, the city came a few steps closer to finding out. 

For years, Austin's Capital Metro has held 11 acres of land in central east Austin. The Plaza Saltillo region – bound by Interstate 35 on the west, Comal Street on the east, and between E. Fourth and E. Fifth Streets – sits adjacent to Cap Metro's commuter MetroRail line.

flickr.com/ejmc

The Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk opened June 7. The 1.3 mile boardwalk completes a 10-mile loop of trail around the lake.

While a boon to runner and cyclists, the new boardwalk also lets users view downtown Austin from a fresh vantage point. Many in Austin have already utilized the boardwalk to capture new perspectives of the city after this weekend’s grand opening.

Reddit user TheKnitro, http://redd.it/252o03

Here's a reason to avoid the Seaholm area near Cesar Chavez Street tonight: over 1,000 concrete trucks from Austin and surrounding cities constantly rotating through the area for over 24 hours.

The City of Austin is building a new central library at 701 W. Cesar Chavez, near the former Seaholm power plant. Tonight, construction crews are putting in a five-foot deep concrete slab to create the building’s foundation. That’s a big project – requiring a total of 1,020 concrete trucks.

facebook.com/LearningSecrets

When you think of Austin’s "Live Music Capital of the World" status, what kind of music do you think of? Lots of genres may come to mind, but possibly not its thriving underground electronic and dance music scene. Tonight Learning Secrets – one of Austin’s longest running dance parties – celebrates their 10-year anniversary.

OK. But what is Learning Secrets?
 

The Den Gallery

This story was originally published on Nov. 29.

Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis: They’re all famous musicians who also moonlighted as visual artists.  

Now, Joe Ely – the Flatlander known by many as the Springsteen of the Southwest – joins their ranks. Ely has been keeping sketches, drawings and photographs since he began life on the road in his teens traveling the U.S. and Europe.

Matthew Alvarez for KUT News

After a year-long closure, the chain-linked fence surrounding Wooldridge Park is down and the space is open to the public again.

The $306,800 renovation covered park improvements including drought-tolerant turf grass, a new irrigation system and electrical upgrades including high-efficiency LED light fixtures.

Photos: Austin Pride Parade 2013

Sep 9, 2013
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Update: Austin Pride festivities paraded through down Austin Saturday night. KUT was there to document it all; take a look at our slideshow below, powered by the KUT Flickr page.  

Original post (Sept. 6): Austin’s annual Pride celebration, which kicked off Sept. 1, builds to a close this weekend. The theme of this year’s events, held by the Austin Gay and Lesbian Pride Foundation? “Love Unites.”

Sorry bats, there’s been a new wildlife sighting in downtown Austin: a colony of honeybees is now living atop a high-rise boutique hotel.

In a small clearing between the network of pipes, condensers, fans and ducts that runs across the roof of the W Austin Hotel, ten bright beehives are humming. To create this buzz, the W partnered with Central Texas Bee Rescue, a local nonprofit on a mission to save the endangered honeybee.

Saturday Night Live

“We’re at a festival, and what is more beautiful than watching someone try?” squeaked Maria Bamford on Thursday night at Austin’s Stateside Theater. The comedian had just attempted a new bit that didn’t quite pay off the way she planned. But she was able to pull it off, thanks to an admission of her own failure and a happy, comedy-loving audience.

Bamford isn’t the only comic trying out new material in Austin: she’s one of a 109 stand-up comedians performing at this year’s Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival (and one of the more recognizable faces at this year’s festival, either for her series of off-kilter Target commercials or her famously strange on-stage antics and voices). 

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Artist Johnny Walker has become The Night Gardener for Fusebox Festival, Austin’s integrative, contemporary art fest. 

Walker’s experiential art involves transforming neglected spaces. For example, one Night Gardener project has Walker chalking flower petals around dark globs of gum on the sidewalk – turning an invisible part of the landscape into a whimsical escape.

Art Alliance Austin

Will Congress Avenue become the creative core of Austin? Some art and business leaders think so, and they're trying to make it happen.

Matt Largey, KUT News

Austin is keeping busy this weekend — which means there are a few road closures event and non-event goers alike should look out for.

The Austin Urban Music Festival is coming back to Auditorium Shores this weekend. This year, the two-day festival is featuring musical guests such as Brandy and Anthony Hamilton. Tickets are still available online.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

The Austin City Council is experimenting with a plan to reduce the availability of parking. Today, it approved a pilot program discussed last meeting “to reduce parking requirements for commercial businesses utilizing trip-reduction strategies.”

Council member Laura Morrison said the program was designed “to work with businesses around town and do a pilot in terms of allowing a reduction in their parking if there are mobility friendly amenities added.”

UW Green Futures Lab/Scan Design Foundation/Gehl Architects

The Austin City Council had parking on its mind today. And now Austin is one step closer to eliminating minimum parking requirements for many downtown businesses, and looking at a program could to lessen the number of cars entering downtown. 

Pilot Parking Program

The council heard a briefing on parking program encouraging businesses to reduce car commuting. The program could begin as soon as April, if the council approves a measure next week.

flickr.com/dingatx

The City Council adopted the Downtown Austin Plan in late 2011. With it, the council OK’d what’s called the Downtown Density Bonus Program. It basically says that developers who want to build more densely than the standards allow would have to offer certain community benefits: things like on-site affordable housing or a paying into a fund for affordable housing elsewhere.

But nearly a year and a half later, Austin’s still waiting on specific guidelines for the Density Bonus Program.

Art Alliance Austin/Creative Action and TBG/Dan Cheetham (Fyoog) and Michelle Tarsney

When you think about downtown Austin, do you ever think about the spaces between the buildings?

Probably not, and you're not alone. That’s may be because alleyways – in movies, and sometimes in real life – are usually shady, dirty and even dangerous places. But some local leaders want to bring the city’s alleys back into the light.

In an alley downtown, I met with Meredith Powell and Dan Cheetham. Powell is with the Art Alliance Austin. The alley, she says “was laid out in the original 1839 map by Edwin Waller and it is on Ninth Street between Brazos and Congress.”

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