Downtown Austin Alliance Staff
The Downtown Austin Alliance team works tirelessly every day to shape the city center we love so much. Our dedicated group of professionals has unmatched experience and knowledge of urban issues. And by leading committees and leveraging community partnerships, we grow even greater than the sum of our parts.
Dewitt (De) Peart leads the Downtown Alliance team in fulfilling its mission to create, preserve, and enhance the value and vitality of downtown Austin.
De became the President and CEO of the Downtown Austin Alliance in February 2015. He guides the vision and strategy, supervises staff and ensures the organization’s fiscal health. He also acts as head liaison to the board of directors and informs public officials and the community of our priorities.
Prior to taking the helm at the Downtown Alliance, De served as executive vice president, economic development and public affairs at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA), and president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce – both affiliates of the Allegheny Conference. The PRA markets the benefits of conducting business in southwestern Pennsylvania to companies worldwide that are growing, relocating or expanding and supports the growth of existing employers in the Pittsburgh region.
Molly leads the Downtown Austin Trust, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization of the Downtown Alliance.
For 25 years, Molly Alexander has enjoyed a successful career focused on downtown revitalization and economic development, including enterprises in both the public and private sectors. Molly and her team work to develop programs, projects and resources that preserve and enhance what is unique and authentic about downtown Austin. In addition to the operation and programming of Republic Square, the team produces the annual Holiday Stroll and works on other public space activation projects throughout downtown.
Molly received her bachelor’s degree in urban studies and history from Trinity University. Along with founding her own start-up company, her past positions have included Director of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, Director of the Georgetown Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Economic and Community Development Director for the City of Elgin. Molly’s favorite place downtown is Royal Blue Grocery on Congress Avenue.
Melissa Barry, AICP
Melissa leads the urban planning division, providing visionary leadership to support a vibrant and livable future for downtown Austin.
Recently, Melissa led the team to create the Downtown Austin Parking Strategy, as well as the Downtown Austin Vision, a plan for the next 25 years of downtown. She serves as the primary staff lead for the organization’s Place and Planning Committee.
Before joining the team in 2009, Melissa was a senior planner at Behan Planning and Design where she worked with local governments throughout the Northeast on community planning and development initiatives. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Albany and a master's degree in planning from Arizona State University. She is a certified planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).
Melissa’s favorite downtown attraction is the Farmers’ Market at Republic Square, and she loves starting the morning with a latte from Houndstooth Coffee.
Bill works to enhance relationships with all members and key stakeholders, to strategically expand the PID, and to develop and implement strategies to broadly address the needs of people experiencing homelessness.
Before joining the Downtown Alliance team in 2003, Bill served as a YMCA executive director and as director of special events and communications for the Vail Valley Tourism and Convention Bureau. He holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Slippery Rock University.
Bill’s favorite downtown outdoor activity is fishing on Lady Bird Lake and his favorite live music venue is the Elephant Room.
Casey Johnson Burack
Casey works on urban mobility and economic development issues and projects for the Downtown Alliance. She also serves as in-house counsel on a variety of matters.
Prior to joining the team in 2018, Casey was an attorney in Winstead PC's Real Estate Development & Investments Practice Group where her practice focused on real estate development and project finance. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from UCLA, and a law degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. She is a member of the Texas, California and New York Bar Associations.
Casey serves as the primary staff lead for the organization’s Economic Development and Urban Mobility Committees. She also currently serves as chair of ULI Austin's Transportation Strategic Council and is a graduate of the Leadership Austin Emerge Class of 2015. Her favorite downtown hangout is the Driskill Hotel, where you’ll find her most days sipping coffee at the 1886 Café.
Samia handles all financial reporting and accounting functions for the Downtown Alliance, Movability, and the Downtown Austin Trust to ensure full accountability to our stakeholders.
Samia joined the team in 2001, bringing experience working in the nonprofit and long-term healthcare industries as an accounting manager and a controller. She received her master’s degree in business administration from the University of North Texas.
Samia's favorite downtown treasure is the Paramount Theatre for shows during the Holiday season and SXSW.
Julie leads internal and external efforts to ensure the strategic success of the Downtown Austin Alliance and to influence how the organization is viewed in the community.
Julie works alongside community leaders, elected officials, staff and board members. She advises program and project teams to support strategic initiatives, governance, brand strategy, public policy, research, advocacy and communication efforts.
Before joining the DAA team in 1999, Julie worked for the Texas House of Representatives. She holds a bachelor’s degree in government from The University of Texas at Austin. Julie’s favorite downtown restaurant is Second Bar + Kitchen.
Dana tells the story of downtown and the work of the Downtown Alliance through our online communication platforms.
Dana manages the communication efforts of the Downtown Alliance and Republic Square. Prior to joining the Downtown Alliance team in April 2016, she worked for nearly 10 years in nonprofit fundraising and communications in support of causes from youth homelessness to animal welfare. Dana has her Bachelor’s degree from Loyola University Chicago and a Master’s in photojournalism from Boston University.
Dana enjoys exploring downtown and discovering hidden gems. Look her for in line at the Caffe Medici counter-cafe on Congress Ave.
Alex manages the programming and events at Republic Square with the goal of creating a welcoming, vibrant gathering place for all of Austin to enjoy.
Alex also coordinates events for Movability’s membership program. Before joining the Downtown Austin Alliance in January 2018, Alex was the Communications, Events, and Marketing Intern for Movability Austin while she was completing her Master's in Business Administration from St. Edward's University. Her undergraduate degree is in English from Texas A&M University. She also has a year of non-profit experience with the American Heart Association in a support role for Heart Walks across the affiliate region.
When Alex is not at the Square, you can find her at Swift's Attic for happy hour or reading at the new Central Library.
Allyssa Hyrnyk, AICP
Allyssa provides in-house planning and urban design expertise to a variety of initiatives relating to the downtown’s built environment and public realm.
She provides strategic thinking and physical planning expertise to the Downtown Austin Alliance team and its partners in all efforts to create complete, livable neighborhoods and districts. She serves as the secondary staff lead for the organization’s Economic Development and Place & Planning Committees.
Coming to Austin after building an extensive career portfolio in Toronto, Canada, Allyssa brings an interesting perspective garnered from a broad range of planning and urban design projects. She holds a Master’s degree in Urban Design from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Environmental Studies in Planning - Urban Design from the University of Waterloo. She is an American Institute Certified Planner (AICP) and a registered professional planner with the Canadian Institute of Planners (RPP). Allyssa’s favorite downtown attraction is the Central Library, and she will never turn down an opportunity for an Easy Tiger Bakery croissant.
Alex supports the day-to-day operations for our executive team managing meetings, calendars, and correspondence.
Born in Pittsburgh and raised in Nashville, Alex joined the Army National Guard after high school. She worked in Intelligence for 3 years before finishing her commitment and attending college at Arizona State University, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Technical Communications.
Alex enjoys the outdoors and trying new restaurants in Austin.
Matt manages the delivery of direct services and service contracts to keep downtown clean, safe and welcoming for residents, employees, and visitors alike.
Matt manages the Downtown Ambassadors team and is responsible for all operations and maintenance of Republic Square. He serves as the primary staff lead for the organization’s Safety & Hospitality Committee.
Matt brings a diverse background ranging from sustainable design and construction to non-profit programming and events. Matt originally moved to Austin from the northeast to complete his Master in Architecture with a focus in sustainable design. He also holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Philadelphia University. When he is not in the office or walking downtown, he can be found on Town Lake in his kayak or on his bike with his son in tow.
Jenell leads economic, demographic, geographic, and market research and analysis efforts to support Downtown Austin’s strategic priorities.
She manages the implementation and maintenance of systems for data management and integration. She also directs multiple research projects in order to support economic development, planning, and advocacy efforts. She serves as the primary staff lead for the organization’s Research Task Force, and she is the secondary staff lead for the Strategic Communication Committee.
Prior to her work with the Downtown Alliance, Jenell worked for the City of Austin for over 10 years. During her time there, she worked as an Engineering Associate with Austin Water Utility and a Senior Business Systems Analyst with the Office of Sustainability. Jenell has her Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master’s in Business Administration from Concordia University Texas-Austin. Jenell’s favorite downtown attraction is the State Capitol.
Vanessa supports the strategic priorities of the organization through media relations, content development, and curating educational events.
Vanessa plays a critical role in the implementation of the organization’s brand strategy and serves as the primary staff lead for the organization’s Strategic Communication Committee. Prior to joining the Downtown Austin Alliance in March 2017, Vanessa spent two years with the Seton Healthcare Family as a project manager. Before moving to Austin, Vanessa spent five years in management and political consulting, focusing on organizational development and team building. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in communication from The Ohio State University.
Vanessa’s favorite downtown activity is walking around Lady Bird Lake with her adopted pit bulls, Bessie and April.
Alix serves as the primary liaison between Movability, the business community, member companies, and consultant teams.
Alix consults with downtown employers to turn mobility challenges into tools to meet their business goals, and she helps commuters find and use options that are cheaper, less stressful, and better for Austin’s traffic and air quality. She works with companies and agencies to develop and implement mobility plans that align with their business interests. Her most rewarding moments are when she can help commuters find and use mobility options that meet their needs, integrating behavior change techniques to turn a "try it" experience into a lifestyle. The Downtown Austin Alliance is Movability’s managing partner.
Before joining Movability in 2014, Alix was a planner at Black + Vernooy Architects. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Texas State University. Alix’s favorite part of her commute downtown is hopping off the bus one stop early, just so she can stroll through the Capitol grounds. Alix’s favorite downtown lunch indulgence is Chef Jon’s yellow curry from Slake Café, and her favorite happy hour spot is the Driskill Bar.
Mandi establishes and nurtures strong relationships with strategic partners to support the purpose, vision and annual financial goals of the Downtown Austin Alliance and the Downtown Austin Trust.
Before joining the Downtown Alliance in 2016, Mandi spent 16 years working in the events and entertainment industry across various marketing and sponsorship sales roles. She spent 13 years with AEG Live as the Director of Partnerships for the Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie and The Palladium Ballroom. Mandi also spent a year at The Dallas Morning News as their Product Strategist & Client Engagement Manager focusing on building strategic revenue driven partnerships across all TDMN products and news brands. Mandi has a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Texas A&M University.
Her favorite thing about downtown is the important history that each street, park and building holds within. Outside of work, she can usually be found enjoying live music with friends playing outdoors with her family.
Michele Van Hyfte, AIA, LEED AP
Michele Van Hyfte leads initiatives that advance smart, sustainable real estate development and infrastructure at the building and district level.
Michele coordinates partnerships with downtown business owners, stakeholders and city leaders to create vibrant, walkable, activated spaces. She focuses on projects for Congress Avenue and the Innovation District that will generate positive community benefit and serve as catalysts for private investment and revitalization. She also assists in efforts to advance development regulations that promote economic vitality, social equity, public health, and environmental sustainability. Prior to joining the Downtown Alliance staff in 2016, she served as a board member.
Michele is a Registered Architect and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professional with over 20 years of experience in architecture, urban design and construction, specializing in sustainable design and operations--both in her own downtown architectural design and consulting firm, and more recently as leader of Seton Healthcare Family’s sustainability initiatives for the design, construction and operations of facilities totaling over 3.5 million square feet. She earned a Master's of Architecture from Virginia Tech and a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Illinois.Her favorite downtown activities are running or biking the Lady Bird Lake Trail, dining at 2nd Street District restaurants and movies at the Violet Crown Cinema.
Alice provides support to Downtown Alliance project teams and external constituents.
As the primary point of contact in the office, Alice provides meeting/project coordination across multiple departments. Alice joined the Downtown Alliance in 1998. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from St. Edward's University. As an alumnus of the university’s College Assistant Migrant Program Scholarship Program, Alice enjoys sharing her experience with potential and incoming students.
Alice’s favorite downtown breakfast spot is The Hideout.