January 2023 is only the beginning of what’s shaping up to be the most transformative year the Downtown Austin Alliance will have yet. This year, we’re not only celebrating 30 years of growth and successes, we’re also celebrating the continued transformation of our organization to meet the modern needs of the ever-evolving city we love. Downtown Austin and the Downtown Austin Alliance may look a little different than they did in 1993, but our work has always been focused on enhancing the vibe and vitality of downtown.
Here are just a few updates on what we’ll be doing as an organization in 2023 and what successes we’re looking forward to celebrating this time next year:
Downtown Austin Alliance Updates
10 Year Authorization Starts May 1
On June 9, 2022, the Austin City Council unanimously passed a resolution to approve the Downtown Public Improvement District for another 10-year term. The Downtown Austin Alliance is now negotiating and executing a management contract with the city that will reflect our new PID boundary and go into effect on May 1, 2023.
Strategic Plan Through 2028
Since August 2022, our organization has been working with BDS Planning to finalize our next 5-year strategic plan. We’re nearing completion and approval of our plan, with an expected approval date in February 2023. We’re excited that we can continue working toward achieving the downtown Austin Vision with the goals and work we’re proposing through 2028.
Future of Downtown & Annual Meeting: Save the Date
Featuring networking opportunities, our State of Downtown debut, live music and highlights from the Downtown Austin Alliance’s achievements over the last year, our annual Future of Downtown event will be one to remember. This year’s event will start with our Annual Meeting agenda, transition into our report unveiling and talks from industry experts, wrapping up the evening with rounds of cheers and mingling. We will make an official announcement for the event once details are confirmed in the next month, so keep an eye out on our newsletters and social media accounts for ticket information.
State of Downtown
We will be producing our 5th Annual State of Downtown research report in 2023. Featuring data on economic development, transformative mobility projects and arts and culture, this year’s report will be the authority on everything downtown Austin. View our past reports here.
Updated periodically, our emerging projects page will also continue to showcase downtown Austin’s developments throughout 2023 and beyond.
Austin Core Transportation (ACT) Plan
In 2022, The Austin Core Transportation (ACT) Plan team completed their first round of community engagement. Moving into 2023, the ACT Plan team began their second phase of community engagement with a survey that’s open through mid-March. The results of this survey will shape what the future of downtown mobility will look like. The draft developed from the results has an anticipated May release date with public feedback throughout June.
Congress Ave Urban Design Initiative (UDI)
In 2022, the Congress Avenue Urban Design Initiative (UDI) team finalized its guiding Vision document. In 2023, schematic designs of how the “Main Street of Texas” can be transformed will be brought to life. Once the first round of plans is completed and ready for the public to review, events for feedback on the proposed designs are anticipated to begin in Spring 2023.
Palm District Plan
The Planning Commission is anticipated to act on the Palm District Plan at their February 14 meeting; City Council’s public hearing on the Palm District Plan is tentatively scheduled for February 23. The City of Austin Housing and Planning Department is recommending that the Palm District Plan be adopted as an attachment to Imagine Austin, a larger plan for Austin and what it can look like moving into its 200th year. Potential ways to implement the plan include Land Development Code amendments, Downtown Austin Plan amendments and staff efforts to kickstart the governance outlined in the plan.
Our Future 35 Cap & Stitch Program
Currently, the Our Future 35 Cap & Stitch team and Community Steering Committee are reviewing the feedback from past community engagement events, and aiming to communities that haven’t yet participated in outreach. An opportunities and constraints report with those analyses will be publicly shared in early 2023. Later this year, the team will focus on exploring early concepts with the community to gain insights and feedback before creating preliminary design options and cost estimates for each cap and stitch. After getting feedback, the City of Austin will work with a team of consultants to complete a set of 30% construction documents.
The cost to implement the initial vision of Project Connect identified by the community has exceeded the available funding for the project, so a scope adjustment is needed. Austin Transit Partnership (ATP) is considering several design options to resolve the funding questions, including changes to the proposed underground transit system downtown. ATP anticipates bringing a draft adjusted scope to the public in Spring 2023 to get initial comments on the proposals. In 2022, ATP released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for system-wide architecture and urban design teams. ATP selected HKS, UN Studio and Gehl for the project, and they will begin their work this February.
Safety & Hospitality
In 2023, the downtown Austin Ambassador program will expand in a few key areas. The first way we’re growing is through establishing a dedicated downtown maintenance team; hiring a maintenance team lead is anticipated by February. The newly established maintenance team will work on various special projects, including repairs at Republic Square, painting and assisting with events and activations. Another way we’re optimizing our Ambassador team is through the continued implementation of an audit system to measure Ambassador effectiveness and drive an increase in performance.
Corporate Citizen Spotlight: Bird
Our Ambassador team works diligently to make sure that downtown remains accessible for all folks; their daily duties include tidying micro-mobility and scooter options on the sidewalk so that the path remains clear for pedestrians. Bird has recognized the work that our Ambassadors do, so to offset labor costs to keep our streets clean and safe, Bird will contribute 5 cents per ride for everyone whose destination is to, from or within downtown. Their example as corporate citizens advocating for downtown Austin will positively impact everyone’s downtown experience.
Trinity Reunification Program
From May 1, 2022, to December 31, 2022, a total of 103 people have been connected through the Trinity Reunification Program. Our goal for this fiscal year is to continue our work and reunify 150 people with their loved ones by April 30, 2023. Based on the program’s success in the last seven months, we’re on pace to exceed our goal. Since the program’s inception in October of 2021, a total of 183 people have been reunified, showcasing the lasting success of the program.
Parks & Greenspaces
On January 18, 2023, the Waller Creek Local Government Corporation (LGC) approved a contract for construction of the second phase of Waterloo Greenway, The Confluence. The Confluence is the southernmost part of the 35-acre Waterloo Greenway park and trail system along Waller Creek in downtown Austin. Construction on The Confluence will begin in Spring 2023 with an estimated construction period of two to three years. The Confluence is the next step toward completing the entire 1.5-mile park system that will connect Waterloo Greenway from 15th Street to Lady Bird Lake.
As a partner in the viability and long-term success of Brush Square, we’re excited for the continued construction of Phase 1 of improvements in 2023. The estimated completion for new walkways, an expansive event lawn, safety improvements including enhanced lighting and more in the park is slated for Winter 2023.
Republic Square underwent significant change in 2022 and improvements are expected to continue throughout 2023. Programming in the park curated by the Downtown Austin Alliance will continue to happen throughout the year, and new temporary art exhibitions will become a staple of Republic Square’s landscape.
Greenspace Donor Spotlight: CapMetro
CapMetro has pledged a total of $325,000 to Republic Square for various improvements over the next five years. This year, their $60,000 pledge will be used on various improvements to continue to transform the park. CapMetro is also donating park benches throughout Republic Square and lean-on rails at the nearby bus stops. These improvements will continue to elevate Republic Square as a transit hub and transform Republic Square into an urban oasis.
Arts & Culture
Join us on March 11th for this year’s Art in the Parks tour, curated by our team in conjunction with Pease Park Conservancy, The Trail Conservancy, Shoal Creek Conservancy, Waterloo Greenway, Ride Bikes Austin, Old Bakery Emporium, The Contemporary – Jones Center, Mexic-Arte and more. Keep an eye out soon for registration links for this free event in our newsletter and on our social media channels. If you can’t join the tour the day of, all of the stops will also be on our website using the interactive Bandwango platform. For 2022’s Downtown Mural Tour, check out our Mural Map.
Old Bakery Park Mural
In 2022, the process began to revitalize Old Bakery Emporium’s park through a new mural honoring downtown Austin’s history. Our team hosted engagement events and the project’s first public survey was opened. In 2023, the Old Bakery mural team will host more public engagement events, continue getting feedback on the project through surveys, choose an artist for the mural and by the end of the year, finalize a design for this beloved historic site.
This year, the Downtown Austin Alliance anticipates the completion of three ARTBOXES in 2023. Two ARTBOX sponsors have been secured so far; the ARTBOX on the corner of 17th and Guadalupe will be sponsored by Linden Property Group and an ARTBOX in the 301 Congress Plaza will be sponsored by HPI Management.
Musicians Activating Spaces (MAS)
The Musicians Activating Spaces (MAS) program began in 2022, showcasing local musicians at events happening in Republic Square and at our 301 Congress Mural unveiling. In 2023, we hope to ramp up the frequency of MAS performances and amplify the MAS program’s impact on local musicians in Austin.
A Vibrant Downtown
Downtown Austin is the quintessential hub for large events in Austin. To keep our city vibrant and thriving, expanding our hospitality offerings, hosting cornerstone events and making sure tourists feel the weirdness we’re known for is exactly where we need to be.
2023 will be one of Austin’s busiest years yet. Film, music and comedy fans rejoice; SXSW will return to downtown Austin from March 10 – 29, 2023. Also, for the first time in history, the CMT Music Awards are coming to Austin, Texas. Make sure you’ve marked your calendars to celebrate country music’s only fan-voted awards on April 2, 2023.
Throughout the year, the Downtown Austin Alliance will also continue to ensure our downtown remains a lively place to attend events through our park programming and signature events. Our marquee Holiday Stroll and downtown in December events brought thousands to downtown in 2022. We’re excited to build toward an even more successful 2023 programming season.
To the Next 30 Years
30 years of service is an amazing feat for any organization to achieve. Just imagine: In 30 more years, downtown Austin will have its own rapid transit system connecting it to every part of the city, lush parks spanning over I-35 and a denser skyline with storefronts activated down every pedestrian-friendly street. We’re excited as always to continue championing downtown and to be part of making downtown the place where y’all really means all.