Annual Report
2020-2021

Our Mission

To create, preserve and enhance the value and vitality of downtown Austin.

Foreword from
Our CEO & Board Chair

May 19, 2021

This has been a long and difficult year. On top of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting business closures and job losses, we faced power and water crises during Winter Storm Uri. And Austinites joined others nationwide in impassioned protests for racial justice. We want to recognize the downtown community for everything you’ve done to follow public health regulations to keep people safe this year, while also helping to advance important issues. Thank you for your flexibility and perseverance, even through your own emotional and economic struggles.

We also want to thank the Downtown Austin Alliance Board and team for your tireless service to the downtown community. Our work depends on partnerships with hundreds of property owners, community organizations and government leaders, and you’ve kept these connections strong in our new virtual world. You have continually processed large amounts of rapidly changing information, and helped our community navigate unknown territory and make data-driven decisions. And you have balanced this crisis response with creating a strategic, comprehensive plan for downtown’s recovery and resilience.

Cultivating inclusion downtown will be central to all of our recovery efforts. In fact, we have added "inclusive" to the Downtown Alliance’s core values as a continual reminder of this priority. We must make downtown safe, accessible, welcoming and appealing for everyone, no matter their age, gender, race or background. This is important to continuing downtown’s tradition as a gathering place for everything from live music to the social justice movements we saw this year. It is also important to strengthening our economy. This year has shown how dependent downtown businesses are on office workers and tourists, and as we welcome those groups back we also want to invite other Austinites downtown as well.

As the stewards of the Downtown Austin Vision, the Downtown Austin Alliance and its Foundation have continued working diligently toward transformative initiatives that will cultivate inclusion while enhancing downtown’s value and vitality for generations to come. These include Capital Metro’s Project Connect, which will connect downtown to North Austin, South Austin and the airport via two new light rail lines and other transit. We have been heavily involved in advocacy and public education around this effort and were encouraged that voters passed this $7.1 billion investment to keep our urban core accessible.

We were also encouraged by the Texas Transportation Commission’s official funding of the $4.9 billion Capital Express Project, which will lower and cap I-35 through downtown Austin. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reconnect East Austin and downtown and to improve the effectiveness of this key transit corridor. This year we began implementing a roadmap from the international experts from Urban Land Institute, capturing the community’s vision for the I-35 corridor and sharing it with TxDOT through our leadership in the Our Future 35 group.

Last but not least, we are urgently rallying our partners toward solving Austin’s homelessness crisis, which has escalated sharply prior to and during the pandemic. We need solutions that balance the needs for public health and safety with the needs for housing, social services and behavioral health care for those experiencing homelessness. We spearheaded a community homelessness summit to create a detailed implementation plan, and we continued to invest in research-based solutions, including Community First! Village’s expansion and a new Healthcare for the Homeless program with our partners at Integral Care, Downtown Austin Community Court and the Homeless Outreach Street Team.

And we are proud to “walk the talk” in helping our unhoused neighbors: Many of our Downtown Ambassadors who kept downtown clean and safe this year were formerly homeless. We are extremely grateful for their essential work and their example that we can all persevere through tough times and come out ahead.

Dewitt Peart

President & CEO

Jennifer Wiebrand

Board Chair

Downtown
Austin Vision

Downtown Austin Vision: Shaping Our Future

The Downtown Austin Vision outlines the community’s collective vision of downtown’s future and identifies long-term strategic priorities. The Downtown Austin Alliance developed this vision based on extensive input from over 3,000 Austinites. It serves as the guiding compass for all of the work we do with our partners. Below are examples of the work we did in 2020 to advance each of the vision’s four strategic priorities.

Welcoming Places

Downtown is beloved for diverse and engaging parks, places and experiences that attract and welcome everyone.

Attracted residents to downtown’s public spaces and supported local businesses by hosting socially distanced and virtual live music, movies and public art installations that represent our community’s diversity and vibrancy.

Thriving Center

Downtown is the thriving center of business and community life, creating economic prosperity for the entire region.

Developed a Roadmap to Recovery and Resilience, creating a plan to ensure that downtown quickly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Growing Neighborhoods

Downtown is a growing and ever-evolving tapestry of complete, vibrant and walkable neighborhoods and districts that express Austin’s authentic character.

Partnered with the Shoal Creek Conservancy to improve the area around Third Street and Shoal Creek, which is home to citywide destinations such as the Central Library and the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail.

Leading Mobility

Downtown is the leader and champion of innovative urban transportation alternatives.

Conducted a feasibility study for a downtown circulator that would help improve mobility, promote economic recovery for downtown and mitigate mobility-related impacts of large construction projects.

Atelier Wong Photography

Strategic Plan
2018-2023

This Strategic Plan was informed by the Downtown Vision, a forward-looking framework that identifies strategic directions to help shape the best possible future for downtown Austin. This Strategic Plan identifies how the Downtown Austin Alliance will commit to advancing the Downtown Vision over the next five years and sets the path for decades to come.

Strategic Communication • Advocacy • Research & Data

Our
Core Values

Our core values shape our team culture and guide every action we take.

In 2020, we added "inclusive" as a value. This reflects our work to make downtown welcoming to everyone, as outlined in the Downtown Vision. The pandemic highlighted that the downtown economy is very dependent upon tourism, and making the area more inclusive to all Austinites will be key to the area's recovery and long-term stability.

Visionary

We think big and are innovative and bold.

Passionate

We are devoted champions and advocates who inspire others to follow suit.

Inclusive

We intentionally engage diverse voices and work to make downtown a welcoming place for everyone.

Collaborative

We connect people and join forces to accomplish the best for downtown.

Trusted

We are respected and trusted stewards of downtown.

Impactful

We are a visible, proactive, catalytic leader. We drive results.

Key Statistics
Downtown Austin 2020-21

Please see the 2021 State of Downtown Report for in-depth data and analysis of downtown’s demographic and market trends.

9.2M
Square feet under construction
19M
Square feet of planned space
$624M
Combined tax revenue
16K
Residents
99K
Employees
12,728
Residential units
12,359
Hotel rooms
150
Acres of parkland
15
Miles of downtown area trails
190
Historic locations
9.2M
Square feet under construction
19M
Square feet of planned space
$624M
Combined tax revenue
16K
Residents
99K
Employees
12,728
Residential units
12,359
Hotel rooms
150
Acres of parkland
15
Miles of downtown area trails
190
Historic locations

Covid-19
Pandemic

Response

When Austin went into lockdown in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, our organization had two immediate priorities. The first was to keep downtown Austin clean and safe. The second was to keep the downtown community informed of the public health trends and ordinances affecting their lives and livelihoods. This required us to quickly and continually process large volumes of rapidly changing information from our partners.

As the weeks went on, we knew we needed to measure the lockdown’s economic impact on downtown businesses so we could develop a strategic recovery plan and advocate on behalf of the community. We participated in the City of Austin Economic Development Department’s citywide research and also conducted our own surveys and focus groups to understand the unique challenges faced by owners of downtown businesses, especially those most affected by the pandemic: hotels, live music and entertainment venues, restaurants and retail. We also analyzed economic data, created impact reports for the downtown office and retail markets, and developed a COVID-19 Economic Index to track ongoing trends in foot traffic, spending and other economic health indicators. We shared this information on our website to help the community make data-driven decisions.

Realignment and implementation began immediately. We did not wait for the roadmap work to be completed before shifting resources to support downtown through the pandemic and shutdown.

Roadmap to Recovery and Resilience

While our response effort began immediately and is ongoing, adapting to ever-changing conditions, we have also spent the past year developing Downtown Austin’s Roadmap to Recovery and Resilience. This is a plan for renewing downtown’s vitality in the short term while simultaneously building the area’s long-term resilience. It is informed by meetings, workshops, surveys and focus groups with the Downtown Alliance’s staff and board members (who represent a broad array of government, community and business sectors) between October 2020 and February 2021.

As we focus on the recovery and resilience priorities outlined in the roadmap, we will:

  • Make downtown more diverse and inclusive.
  • Infuse best practices in intentional placemaking.
  • Develop new partners, coalitions, funding and tools.

Priority 1: Address Unsheltered Homelessness

Guide the creation and implementation of a strategy to address unsheltered homelessness in downtown.

  • Work with partners to significantly reduce unsheltered homelessness.
  • Reduce the number experiencing unsheltered homelessness in the downtown area by 50% by 2022.
  • Fund and advise efforts to deliver comprehensive health care services to the homeless downtown.

Priority 2: Activate Parks and Public Spaces

Elevate inclusive and engaging programs and experiences in downtown parks and public spaces.

  • Substantially expand and coordinate programming in downtown parks and trails.
  • Regularly sponsor and produce arts, cultural and music events and programs in the public space.
  • Use activation metrics to monitor and improve results.
Taylor Prinsen Photography

Priority 3: Support Small Businesses and Live Music

Support the preservation and recovery of downtown’s small, locally-owned businesses and live music.

  • Actively advocate for needed financial support for downtown’s small, locally-owned businesses and live music scene (including shops, restaurants, bars and cultural destinations).
  • Ensure that street-level vacancies are creatively activated and enlivened.
  • Conduct a regular census of downtown storefront businesses and use it to track and ensure progress.

Priority 4: Promote Downtown Austin

Publicize downtown’s appeal and promote interesting and enjoyable experiences downtown.

  • Execute targeted promotional campaigns under a comprehensive strategy to promote downtown’s vitality.
  • Promote downtown Austin as a lively and multi-faceted destination.
  • Work with large employers to support the return of downtown employees.

Ready and Resilient

Planning for downtown Austin’s future requires a comprehensive and integrated resilience strategy. It will prepare us to anticipate and mitigate future shocks and stressors that could negatively impact the health of the area’s people, economy, ecology and infrastructure. In collaboration with our partners, we are committed to developing an operational and communications emergency response plan and local and regional resilience plans and policies.

The opportunities: Transform downtown with infrastructure and placemaking

Champion enhanced infrastructure to improve downtown’s
appeal, vitality and resilience. Ensure that new public
places support increased inclusion and vibrancy.

1
Project Connect // Create iconic transit hubs in downtown in conjunction with a robust citywide transit network.
2
I-35 Cap and Stitch // Lower and cap the highway; stitch our city back together with inclusive, new public places.
3
Congress Avenue // Reconstruct Congress Avenue as the most vibrant and people-centric place in Austin.
4
South Central Waterfront // Launch a new neighborhood along Lady Bird Lake with parks, public spaces, transit access and panoramic views.
5
Palm District Plan // Optimize the eastern portion of downtown through careful and coordinated preservation and redevelopment of existing parks, neighborhoods and sub-districts.
6
Cypress and Shoal // Improve safety and access in the Seaholm District through a series of plazas, bridges and public space connections along 3rd Street.
7
Waterloo Greenway // Complete the 1.5-mile system of connected parks and green spaces in the heart of Austin.

A commitment to
a downtown for all

Downtown Austin has long been a place for people to gather in support of the causes that matter to them most. Protests and demonstrations along Congress Avenue and on the steps of the Capitol have united people in an effort to ignite change. But none have rallied a cry as loud and as strong as the calls for racial justice this year.

At the Downtown Austin Alliance, we unequivocally believe that Black Lives Matter. And we fully support the movement to Stop Asian Hate.

Our vision calls for a downtown that is vibrant, connected and welcoming for all. We recognize that we have not made sufficient progress toward this vision. Deep, systemic racism and inequities exist in our city, precluding a number of people from feeling safe and welcomed downtown. We stand with the community members calling for change and are committed to doing our part toward equity in our urban core.

Our
Services

The majority of our annual budget is spent on providing direct services that keep downtown a safe, clean and welcoming place to be. In a year of historic events—a global pandemic, widespread protests calling for racial justice, and a devastating winter storm—these services were more critical than ever. We continued to service the entire downtown public improvement district 365 days a year.

Clean Environment

The Downtown Ambassadors are the cornerstone of our direct services program. Every day our team of 46 ambassadors works from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. removing trash and pressure washing streets. In March 2020, the Ambassadors began performing daily, enhanced sanitization of downtown infrastructure including benches, light posts and door handles. They also maintained four public handwashing stations we installed in high-traffic areas. The Ambassadors wear masks and gloves and follow strict social distancing protocols. While cleaning was the Ambassadors’ top priority this year, they also continued to beautify the area through painting and planting projects.

  • Downtown Austin
  • Downtown Austin Public
    Improvement District

The Area We Serve

In 1993, the downtown property owners petitioned the City of Austin to create a Public Improvement District (PID) to address the unique needs of downtown Austin. The PID is currently authorized through 2023. The Downtown Alliance’s primary funding source comes from a special assessment on privately owned properties (over $500,000) within this PID. Our Public Improvement District boundaries are roughly Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on the north, Lady Bird Lake on the south, I-35 on the east and San Antonio Street on the west.

1,099
properties
$11.2B
PID Taxable Value
651
acres in the PID

Infrastructure & Winter Storm Uri

Our team routinely audits city systems, infrastructure and services to ensure public spaces downtown are maintained. This decreases 311 calls. The Ambassadors also coordinate with other city services such as Austin Resource Recovery, Austin Public Works and Watershed Protection on repair projects.

During Winter Storm Uri and the resulting power and water crisis in February 2021, the Ambassadors worked with the City of Austin’s Emergency Operations Center and Austin Public Works to create pedestrian arterial paths. They removed snow from sidewalks and put down de-icing agents and sand to ensure people could walk safely to critical destinations such as grocery stores, pharmacies and warming shelters. After the storm, the team handled the time-consuming process of removing the de-icing agents and cleaning the sidewalks and streets. The Downtown Alliance also partnered with Public Works’ Urban Forestry Division to conduct an assessment of downtown’s trees and landscaping. We estimate approximately 35% of the area’s vegetation will need to be replaced.

While a burst pipe downtown caused over 1 million gallons of water loss, we did not see a lot of other infrastructure loss downtown, in part because of our regular proactive auditing. Before the storm, we also informed our City of Austin partners of any preemptive maintenance needs. During the storm, we spent hours calling property owners to ask them to turn off their buildings’ lights to help our city’s overtaxed electricity grid. We also worked with construction industry organizations to ensure downtown construction sites were shut down and safely secured.

Safe and Welcoming Streets

We support safety on all fronts downtown. We continue to provide funding to enhance APD’s safety camera system throughout the area, which helps prevent and solve crimes. We also fund an overtime patrol that provides two additional Austin Police Department (APD) officers in the downtown PID 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. These officers patrol on bikes for a true community policing effort. The Downtown Ambassadors support APD by asking people to comply with ordinances, referring people to social services and reporting urgent issues to law enforcement. The Ambassadors provide safety escorts to help people get to or from their cars or transit, upon request. They also provide hospitality to pedestrians, from friendly greetings to directions, information and navigation.

Austin Police Department overtime patrol officers patrol on bikes.

Our Downtown Ambassadors provide hospitality to pedestrians and safety escorts upon request.

Supporting Civil Engagement

We are proud of downtown’s legacy as a gathering place for Austinites to speak their minds about important issues. We treat celebrations, marches and protests like any other downtown event, doing a “clean sweep” to remove any debris or foreign objects that could pose hazards to pedestrians or be used as weapons. This protocol applied to the June 2020 protests for racial justice sparked by the deaths of George Floyd and Mike Ramos, as well as gatherings after the 2020 presidential election. We also encouraged APD and the Texas Department of Public Safety to follow a balanced approach to their patrolling of the area, remaining respectfully distant yet ready to intervene if anyone’s safety was threatened.

Essential Services for the Homeless: Project Outreach

The Ambassadors are welcoming to all people downtown, including our most vulnerable residents. In August 2020, the Ambassadors began passing out bottled water to people experiencing homelessness. The goal was to provide relief to people struggling with a lack of shelter on a hot day during a pandemic—and to initiate a caring dialogue. This simple act of kindness, along with the fact that many Ambassadors have experienced homelessness themselves, made people comfortable talking about the help they needed. The Ambassadors were able to then connect them with services. Overall, this relationship-building approach increased responsiveness and cooperation among the homeless community.

We have since dubbed this initiative Project Outreach and expanded it to meet other needs. In the winter we held supply drives among the downtown community to gather and distribute gloves, scarves and hats to people experiencing homelessness. The Ambassadors have used these interactions to talk about proper trash and recycling disposal, and we’ve seen a decrease in litter downtown as a result.

“Project Outreach showed we can establish trust and a relationship with people experiencing homelessness through an act of generosity and kindness as simple as a single bottle of water.”

Matt Macioge, Operations Director, Downtown Austin Alliance

By the
Numbers

Ambassadors

27,806
hospitality contacts
4,934,826
square feet power washed
601
safety escorts
262,992
pounds of trash removed
94
face masks provided

Beautification

11,969
graffiti & posters removed
172
planters maintained
58
banners maintained
148
trees maintained
7
tons of dolomite spread and picked up during Winter Storm Uri

Overtime Police

$600K
spent on APD overtime initiative
1,479
interactions with pedestrians
571
police cases assisted by the camera system
Replanting under the Auction Oaks at Republic Square as part of the Clarity Parks Project grant.
Downtown Ambassadors keep high-traffic areas like Republic Square park safe, clean and welcoming.

Advocacy
And Support

We are downtown Austin’s full-time advocate and biggest champion. We bring downtown’s stakeholders, policymakers and property owners together to collaborate on solutions to our most pressing issues. We ensure the downtown community’s voice is heard when important decisions are being made. We invest in and promote our partners’ innovations. And we are transparent in communicating our actions and progress.

COVID-19 Relief and Response

We advocated for relief from the federal government to support local downtown businesses, and helped educate businesses on available programs, eligibility and application processes. Opportunities included the CARES Act and Paycheck Protection Program. We worked with partners such as the Red River Cultural District and the National Independent Venue Association to advocate for live music industry relief through Austin Music Disaster Relief and the Save Our Stages Act. We also advocated for construction workers to be considered essential so downtown development projects could continue with additional health and safety measures in place.

COVID-19 Relief and Response

We advocated for relief from the federal government to support local downtown businesses, and helped educate businesses on available programs, eligibility and application processes. Opportunities included the CARES Act and Paycheck Protection Program. We worked with partners such as the Red River Cultural District and the National Independent Venue Association to advocate for live music industry relief through Austin Music Disaster Relief and the Save Our Stages Act. We also advocated for construction workers to be considered essential so downtown development projects could continue with additional health and safety measures in place.

2021 Texas Legislative Session

We developed an agenda for the 87th Texas Legislative Session with four key priorities. We will track bills related to these issues and provide support and testimony as needed, coordinating with the new Texas Metro Downtowns Coalition we formed with other downtown organizations across the state.

  • Public Safety — Support legislation that improves public safety and public order.
  • Mobility & I-35 — Maintain the funding allocated by the Texas Transportation Commission toward the I-35 Capital Express Central Project and support funding mechanisms that advance the design, construction, operation or maintenance of any surface-level enhancements.
  • Homelessness — Support legislation that increases funding for or access to social services, housing and behavioral health care for individuals experiencing homelessness.
  • Land Use & Economic Development — Maintain current permissible uses of the Hotel Occupancy Tax and oppose any legislation to expand such uses.

Mobility

We continued to advocate for Capital Metro’s Project Connect (a long-term vision plan for a comprehensive rapid transit system) through the downtown stakeholder group we established, and we contributed to Transit for Austin’s research and education campaign. The $7.1 billion initiative passed on the November 2020 ballot.

We also encouraged Austin residents to write letters to TxDOT providing their input on the I-35 Capital Express Project. This was part of the public comment period during the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.

Street Impact Fees & Transportation Criteria Manual

In December 2020, City Council approved street impact fees, a new type of impact fee that will fund street improvements including intersection design and signaling, two-way street conversions and a few street extensions. Starting in June 2022, new projects will pay a one-time charge, which must be used within 10 years for improvements in their service area.

The Downtown Alliance developed an advocacy strategy with partners and downtown stakeholders to increase transparency and mitigate the negative impact of the policy as it moves into implementation. We were successful in advocating for a longer grace period to begin collecting charges, continued stakeholder input, more fee reduction options to offset costs and an online tool that will track fee collections and expenditures. We are analyzing the list of projects to be funded by the fees and will make recommendations for changes and prioritization. We will coordinate these efforts with our other codes and ordinances advocacy work as well as a potential new downtown mobility study.

Homelessness

We are committed to ensuring downtown is a safe, healthy, vibrant and welcoming environment for all. This includes addressing homelessness, so our most vulnerable residents can access the health care, housing and services they need to get off the streets.

On any given day, approximately one-third of the city’s overall homeless population is located in the downtown area. For more than a decade, the Downtown Austin Alliance has led and participated in public and private partnerships focused on innovative, research-based solutions. We fund projects ranging from shelters to health services and advocate for improved policy and planning. And for more than 17 years, we have provided gainful employment opportunities to many people experiencing homelessness through our Downtown Ambassadors program.

Our work took on a new urgency this year, as the number of people experiencing homelessness in Austin increased 11%, the number experiencing unsheltered homelessness increased 46% and many people were displaced from their homes due to job loss, the health impacts of the virus or inability to access the resources they needed. Beginning in March the downtown shelters—the Salvation Army and the ARCH—reduced their capacities by 50% or more below normal levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many shelter clients were moved to city-leased hotels and motels, but the number of people living unsheltered downtown increased noticeably.

Move-in day at the Rathgeber Center for Families. Courtesy of Salvation Army Austin.
The Rathgeber Center for Families. Ryan Hanzel Photography.

Homelessness Summit

Downtown Austin Alliance helped spearhead and organize a Homelessness Summit to develop a comprehensive implementation strategy to address unsheltered homelessness. The multi-week event, which kicked off March 24, 2021, brought together 250 public, private, nonprofit and faith-based organizations including Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, Downtown Austin Alliance, the Austin Chamber of Commerce, Austin Justice Coalition, Homes Not Handcuffs and Notley’s HomeFront Fund. The goal was to unify the community around a singular vision and create an actionable plan with specific, targeted objectives over an 18-month period, benchmarks for measuring success and identified sources and uses of funding. The resulting implementation strategy focuses on six areas: prevention, crisis beds, permanent supportive housing, rapid rehousing, street management and encampment response. The Downtown Alliance and organizing partners are now assimilating the recommendations from the summit to begin rolling out the strategy in the spring and summer of 2021.

Healthcare for the Homeless

Past research funded by the Downtown Alliance identified a critical need for increased behavioral health services to help people transition out of homelessness and prevent them from returning to homelessness. That led the Downtown Austin Alliance to form a new partnership with Integral Care, Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC) and the Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST) to create Healthcare for the Homeless. This new program that launched in April 2021 provides people experiencing homelessness downtown direct access to services that address their behavioral health, substance abuse disorders and primary care needs and also helps them navigate housing options. The Terrace at Oak Springs Housing First Medical Clinic will be the hub for service delivery. HOST and DACC will refer people to the clinic.

ATX Helps

In March 2020, impacts of the pandemic halted ATX Helps’ initiative to create new congregate shelter for people experiencing homelessness. Due to health and safety concerns, ATX Helps is now working to support the implementation of a new shelter model that will provide more than 150 people with temporary shelter and essential social services.

Community First! Village

We continued supporting the development and expansion of Community First Village!, an internationally recognized community that provides formerly homeless people with housing, services, income-generating opportunities and the ability to build fulfilling lives. This marked the fourth year of the Downtown Austin Alliance’s 10-year, $2 million pledge to provide capital funding for Community First! Village. This funding will enable the community to build its second, third and fourth phases, which, at completion, will house an estimated 1,500 people. Phase two opened in August 2020 and now has 47 residents, bringing the community’s total population to 213 people—36% of whom were previously located in downtown Austin.

“Eleven years ago, the Downtown Austin Alliance changed my life when they hired me as an Ambassador. I used to be homeless, and they gave me an opportunity when no one else would. Every day I’m proud to serve this community and show others what’s possible.”

Isaak Ghebrenaraim, Downtown Ambassador

District
Planning

The Downtown Vision calls for a growing and ever-evolving tapestry of complete, vibrant and walkable neighborhoods and districts that express Austin’s authentic character. As downtown’s steward, not only are we at the center of all active district planning projects, but we also ensure all parties have a holistic view of how the districts will work together to enhance downtown’s vitality. Despite this year’s challenges, we kept these long-term projects moving forward.

A New Future for I-35

The proposed rebuilding of central Austin’s I-35 corridor is not a unique concept – many cities around the world have lowered, capped and even removed their urban freeways.

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Innovation District

Austin’s emerging Innovation District, located in downtown’s northeastern corner, will be a hub for the region’s life sciences, health care and technology industries.

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Palm District Plan

A holistic and actionable plan for the eastern half of downtown has been our long-time priority. We are engaged with our partners on a Palm District Planning Process that will tie together several initiatives.

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Cypress & Shoal Creek Public Space Strategy

Southwest downtown is transforming rapidly, with new office, residential and retail development.

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Spotlight: The Future of I-35

We support the Texas Department of Transportation’s Capital Express project, which would add managed lanes to the entire stretch of I-35 through Austin and lower the highway through downtown. The $4.9 billion project was also officially funded by the Texas Transportation Commission. In February 2020, we organized an Urban Land Institute panel of international experts to help shape a vision and roadmap for capping and connecting the corridor once TxDOT lowers I-35.

We’ve then spent the past year implementing the ULI roadmap. Throughout the summer and fall, we hosted 14 community engagement events to get residents’ input on critical topics outlined in the ULI roadmap. These events included radio remotes in English and Spanish as well as workshops with over 45 community mentors and experts.

We continue to work with and advocate for the community as members of the new Our Future 35 coalition. We are actively involved in TxDOT’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process for I-35, ensuring the community’s vision and input is considered at every step. We have also partnered with the City of Austin to co-create a vision and equitable development strategy for the 11 acres of potential “caps” and two acres of potential “stitches” along the I-35 corridor in downtown Austin.

“We can do more than avoid the impacts of I-35’s reconstruction; we can prioritize the best outcomes for Austin and its communities of color.”

Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette and Linda Guerrero, co-chairs of Our Future 35

Mobility

Mobility is the lifeline of a healthy, thriving downtown. With Austin’s population projected to double by 2040, we need wide-ranging, forward-thinking transportation solutions to keep our urban core accessible. As we navigated the immediate challenges of the pandemic and planned for recovery, we also continued our work on the large, long-term infrastructure projects that will transform downtown.

Project Connect

This vision advances the goal of moving from 80% of people commuting in single-occupancy vehicles and 20% using transit to a 50% transit share.

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Circulator Study

We hired our longtime partner Nelson\Nygaard to conduct a feasibility study of a downtown circulator system to transport people short distances.

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Atelier Wong Photography

Downtown Station

In October 2020, Capital Metro opened its expanded Downtown Station on East Fourth Street between Trinity and Red River Streets.

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Movability

We continued to support Movability, Central Texas’ first and only transportation management association, in its work to connect commuters with mobility options.

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Parking

In 2017, we conducted the first-ever downtown parking inventory and developed a Downtown Parking Strategy with 19 recommendations for improving parking and mobility.

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Downtown Austin
Alliance Foundation

The Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation was established in 2019 as the 501(c)(3) nonprofit extension of the Downtown Austin Alliance. The Foundation’s mission is to ignite the potential of downtown—through art and creative spaces that capture the spirit of Austin—by and for everyone.

The Foundation is charged with implementing key projects that support the Downtown Alliance’s vision. That includes holding the management contract to operate, program and fund Republic Square, as well as leading place-based activations and initiatives downtown as outlined in the Roadmap to Recovery and Resilience.

During the pandemic, the Foundation had to pursue new and creative ways to connect people to downtown. The Foundation also welcomed two new board members, bringing on Raasin McIntosh of Raasin in the Sun and Xavier Pena from the St. David's Foundation, all while pursuing new funding opportunities.

We launched a Writing on the Walls series honoring late Texas Governor Ann Richards, creating and installing a suite of 96 banners downtown featuring iconic images and notable quotes.
Shop the Block activation brought patrons to Congress Avenue.

Writing on the Walls

The Foundation continued our Writing on the Walls series of collaborative public art installations and events this past Fall when local developer Manifold Real Estate and Hsu Architecture invited us to partner on four murals at their Bouldin Creek project. The Foundation commissioned local artists Jana Swec, Tyler Hobbs, Soophie Roach and Soledad Fernandez-Whitechurch to complete the project.

Ann Richards Art Project

In March 2021, we launched another Writing on the Walls series honoring late Texas Governor Ann Richards celebrating the 30th anniversary of her inauguration. We partnered with the Ann Richards Legacy Project to create and install a suite of 96 banners downtown featuring iconic images and notable quotes of Gov. Richards. To introduce the governor to a new generation, we created selfie spots near the banners and hired Soledad Fernandez-Whitechurch to create an Instagrammable cutout of Gov. Richards.

Blue Starlite Drive-in

In August 2020, the Foundation partnered with Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-in and the Texas Facilities Commission to host a COVID-friendly downtown drive-in movie theater every weekend of the year. Screenings take place Thursday-Saturday nights on the rooftop of 300 San Antonio Street. The drive-in format was also used to host other creative community events such as slam poetry nights.

Shop the Block

The Foundation partnered with the businesses on the 600 block of Congress through a new City of Austin program to reinvigorate downtown. The program helped businesses and restaurants activate their sidewalks and outdoor areas through socially distanced dining areas, music and programming. The success of this program led to a quicker re-opening of Royal Blue Grocery and Caroline’s restaurant.

Busking on Second Street

The Foundation privately raised money to hire local musicians to play live music on Second Street every Saturday and Sunday starting in February 2021. Through this partnership with Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM) and the 2ND Street District, we were able to successfully promote shopping and dining while putting Austin musicians back to work.

Signature
Events

Events take downtown’s vibrancy to a new level, bringing people of all ages together to celebrate arts, culture and our city’s heritage. While gatherings may look different in pandemic times, they are important for energizing downtown and drawing residents to the area’s businesses. Events will continue to play a vital role in downtown’s recovery. The Downtown Austin Alliance and Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation produced our signature events this year in creative new formats that followed public health guidelines.

Holiday Stroll

The annual Downtown Holiday Stroll is typically a one-night event, drawing 17,000 people downtown to shop, dine, sing carols, enjoy concerts and watch the Downtown tree lighting. We reimagined the 2020 Stroll as a five-week event running from Small Business Saturday to December 31.

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Cinco de Mayo

To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, we organized “Cinco with Republic Square,” a day of virtual programming that included an online market with Frida Friday—Austin’s first and only women of color-centered Mercado as well as musical performances, happy hour recipes and activities.

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Virtual Birthday Bash

We made the third annual Austin’s Birthday Bash a virtual event instead of our usual festival and concert in Republic Square. We invited residents to Republic Square to pick up a birthday kit with favors and coupons and then they could watch a virtual concert, which was curated by Jonathan “Chaka” Mahone of Riders Against the Storm and featured local artists of color.

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Future of Downtown Series

We regularly host events that educate the community on major initiatives that align with the priorities in the Downtown Austin Vision. This year, we instead produced a Future of Downtown Austin TV show that aired on KVUE and KXAN.

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“The Downtown Alliance saved Christmas for us downtown merchants this year and we are so grateful. Our stores exploded this weekend with business. Every time a band played in the 2nd Street District or Shop the Block on Congress, our traffic spiked in all the nearby stores. It felt like such a triumph to feel a shred of Austin return.”

Shelly Meyers, Wild About Music

Republic Square

Republic Square has been downtown’s central gathering place since Austin’s founding. During the pandemic, Republic Square and other outdoor areas have become essential respites for boosting physical and mental health. The Downtown Austin Alliance is responsible for keeping the park active and welcoming. And the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation oversees all of the park’s operations, maintenance, programming, events and fundraising.

Salt & Time Café

Salt & Time Café opened in August, 2020 as Republic Square’s first food and beverage vendor, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee and wine. They were able to open during a pandemic, offering contactless ordering and pick-up options which allowed them to operate at regular hours 7 days a week. We had recruited the café to the Square to enhance park programming and provide the downtown community with more outdoor dining options.

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Salt & Time Café

Salt & Time Café opened in August, 2020 as Republic Square’s first food and beverage vendor, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee and wine. They were able to open during a pandemic, offering contactless ordering and pick-up options which allowed them to operate at regular hours 7 days a week. We had recruited the café to the Square to enhance park programming and provide the downtown community with more outdoor dining options.

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Clarity Parks Project

The square was also chosen by the Clarity Parks Project and Project for Public Spaces as one of three urban public spaces to receive a $47,000 grant from the makers of Claritin. The grant was used to enhance and protect the Auction Oaks, adding new landscaping, plantings, and water-resilient features in the area surrounding the historic trees.

The work to enhance the health of the 850+ year old Auction Oaks was partially funded by a grant from the City of Austin’s forestry division.

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P A R K S P A C E

A colorful grid of yellow, orange and red squares were painted on the lawn at Republic Square as part of the Austin Foundation for Architecture installation series, P A R K S P A C E. The installation was designed to help park visitors visualize social distancing so they could safely enjoy outdoor activities six feet apart. The Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation, AIA Austin and Austin Parks and Recreation department partnered with AFA on the initiative.

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Central Park Conservancy

Republic Square participated in the Central Park Conservancy Institute for Urban Parks’ inaugural 2019-2020 Partnerships Lab. It was one of only five U.S. organizations selected for this prestigious mentorship program.

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Salt & Time Café at Republic Square donated over 2,000 meals to residents at the city’s five Protective Lodges, or "ProLodges," which help protect unhoused Austinites from COVID-19 by providing them with housing and services. The cafe also donated 1,000 meals to various relief efforts during Winter Storm Uri.

Research and
Communication

Research

The Downtown Austin Alliance’s research team conducts primary research on downtown-related issues and also compiles and analyzes third-party research. Our website is a central repository for data on economic development, real estate, mobility trends and more. This information enables members of our team and the downtown community to make data-driven decisions as we work together to shape our future.

State of Downtown Report

We published our 2021 State of Downtown Report, which uses market data to give a comprehensive account of downtown’s economic impact, health and vitality. We provided high level takeaways on COVID-19’s impact on downtown. We also featured mobility, parks, and live music highlights.

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COVID-19: Measuring the Pandemic’s Effects

We view research as a critical tool in helping the downtown community respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year we conducted and compiled extensive research on the pandemic’s effects on life and business downtown. We also began regularly surveying Austin residents to understand the community’s current perceptions of downtown, reasons contributing to their response, and frequency of respondents’ visits to downtown.

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Emerging Projects

We continue to track downtown’s development pipeline, which includes projects recently delivered, currently under construction and planned. An interactive map is published quarterly to our website. A 3-D map of these projects was also published in the 2021 State of Downtown Report.

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First Floor Storefront Inventory

Downtown has over 700 storefront businesses. Over the course of the past year, we completed two inventories of the operating status of these storefront businesses in order to better understand COVID-19’s impact on small, local and retail businesses.

“The Downtown Austin Alliance’s research and data tools, such as the COVID-19 Economic Impact Index, provided valuable insight into the specific impacts experienced by downtown’s businesses during the pandemic. Understanding these unique challenges and needs helped inform the opportunities of the city’s Economic Recovery and Resiliency Framework. We look forward to our continued collaboration with the Alliance as we implement the plan and support downtown’s recovery.”

Veronica Briseño, City of Austin Chief Economic Recovery OfficE

Communication

We keep downtown property owners, businesses, residents and visitors updated on downtown news, events and development through our weekly newsletter, social media, local media and our website. Our website is a go-to resource for our research, data and development updates.

COVID-19: Keeping the Community Informed

At the onset of the pandemic, we changed our website and newsletters to become some of the city’s most comprehensive resources for COVID-related information. We increased our newsletter frequency to twice per week and provided the downtown community with regular updates on business closure guidelines, social distancing protocols and financial relief options. As the year went on and public health restrictions changed, we began promoting safe ways for residents to enjoy downtown and support local businesses.

Tools for Transparency

We also invested in new tools and systems to help our team members more effectively share information with each other and with our members and partners. To increase transparency, we launched a portal where all Downtown Austin Alliance members can access our organization’s agendas, plans and meeting notes, and we started a newsletter just for members. Our new customer relationship management system also enables us to better target our communications to different groups within the downtown community. This will be especially helpful in times of crisis, as we saw during Winter Storm Uri.

Future of Downtown Television Broadcast

Instead of moving our annual Future of Downtown event (at which we unveil the State of Downtown Report) to a virtual format, we decided to instead produce a 30-minute television show for the entire community. The Future of Downtown Austin, which aired June 21, 2020, on KVUE and KXAN, informed viewers how the pandemic has impacted downtown and what the Downtown Austin Alliance is doing to support the response, recovery and resilience of our urban core. We were able to purchase the airtime with support from 12 of our partners.

By the
Numbers

37.1K+
Total
social media
followers
20,200+
@Downtown
AustinAlliance
7,500+
@DowntownATXInfo
6,600+
@DowntownAustin
2,800+
Downtown Austin Alliance
289,604,342
Total Impressions
(Print, Online, Broadcast)
$5,391,020
Total Publicity Value
(Earned Media)

Financial
Reports

A

Safety and Hospitality

$1,896,423 (19.09%)
B

Mobility & Parking

$1,435,494 (14.45%)
C

Cleanliness and Beautification

$1,237,725 (12.46%)
D

General & Administrative

$1,155,712 (11.64%)
E

Public Space Activation

$947,354 (9.54%)
F

District Planning

$790,682 (7.96%)
G

Communications

$635,735 (6.4%)
H

Historic Squares, Parks, & Open Space

$579,663 (5.84%)
I

Market Research

$456,766 (4.6%)
J

Homelessness Support

$240,914 (2.43%)
K

Fundraising

$183,353 (1.85%)
L

Board/Executive/Governance

$171,272 (1.72%)
M

Education

$142,936 (1.44%)
N

Congress Avenue

$57,618 (0.58%)
Consolidated Statement of
Financial Position

Assets

Current Assets

Cash & Cash Equivalents
3,530,897
Accounts Receivable
82,896
Prepaid Expenses
13,733
Total Current Assets 3,627,526

Noncurrent Assets

Security Deposits
44,118
Pledged Receivable
50,000
Split dollar life insurance loan receivable
26,441
Fixed Assets
514,090
Total Noncurrent Assets 634,649
Total Assets 4,262,175

Liabilities and Net Assets

Current liabilities

Accounts Payable
814,558
Accrued Expenses
204,215
Unearned revenue
279,391
Contributions Payable
320,000
Total Current Liabilities 1,618,164

Long-term liabilities

Contributions Payable (net of current portion)
1,052,529
Deferred Rent Obligation
106,888
Total Long-Term Liabilities1,159,417
Total Liabilities2,777,581

Net Assets

Net Assets without Donor Restrictions
1,484,594
Total Liabilities & Net Assets4,262,175
Consolidated Statement of
Activities

Changes in Unrestricted Net Assets

Revenue

Public Improvement District Revenue
8,256,771
Local government contributions
579,160
Contributions
736,346
Contract Services
317,655
Rent
65,257
Loss on split interest life insurance
(53,559)
Other
120,512
Total Revenue &
Other Supports 10,022,142

Expenses

Program
8,592,582
Admininstration
1,155,712
Fundraising
183,353
Total Expenses 9,931,647
Change in net Assets 90,495
Beginning net Assets 1,394,099
Ending net Assets 11,484,594

Downtown Austin
Alliance

Consolidated Statements
of Financial Position and
Activities for FY Ending
April 30, 2020

Downtown Alliance
Team

Leadership

Dewitt Peart

President and CEO

Molly Alexander

Executive Director, Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation

Melissa Barry, AICP

Vice President, Planning

Bill Brice

Vice President, Investor Relations

Samia Burns

Controller

Julie Fitch

Chief Operating Officer

Pamela Power

Vice President, Marketing and Communication

Michele Van Hyfte, AIA, LEED AP

Vice President, Urban Design

Staff

Nicole Basham

Digital Content Manager

Amalia Carmona

Project Coordinator

Jenell Moffett, MBA

Director of Research & Analysis

Matt Macioge

Director of Operations

Vanessa Olson

Director of Investor Relations

Emily Risinger, SITES AP

Planning and Urban Design Manager

Gabriel Schumacher

Research Analyst

Mandi Thomas

Director of Strategic Partnerships

Angie Tubbs

Executive Assistant

Vanessa Zhou

Accounting Coordinator

Board of Directors

Jennifer Wiebrand

Chair
Gables Residential

S. Whitney May Knight

Vice Chair
Allensworth & Porter

Jeff Howard

Secretary
McLean & Howard

Megan Wanek Frey

Treasurer
Endeavor Real Estate Group

Writer/Editor: Erica Hess, Plume Communications | Design & Web Development: The Killswitch Collective