AUSTIN (KXAN) - The popularity of east 6th street in the entertainment district is much due to several bars that cater to more of a night crowd. An improvement project, as part of the Downtown Austin Plan , would encourage more outdoor dining and retail to help draw in more of a "day" crowd.
The project is among several in a group of projects designed to make the Downtown Austin area a livelier place.
"I think bringing more mixed-use to the area, more retail, more restaurants even that are open all day, not just bars that are open all night," said Nilda Delallata, who owns El Sol Y La Luna on east Sixth Street and Red River Street.
"I am now sitting on the board of the Sixth Street Association . We're hoping to work closely with the Downtown Austin Alliance and City of Austin to try to beautify and revitalize the Sixth Street area," she said.
The plan asks for widening the sidewalks on east Sixth Street from Congress Avenue to Interstate 35, which would make room for more outdoor dining and retail space.
The Downtown Austin Plan has been in the works for several years and has been met with obstacles.
"The biggest challenges that we've faced in this project is, in some ways, competing public policy objectives for downtown," said Jim Robertson with the City of Austin. "We want our downtown to be vibrant, energetic, [and have] re-development, but at the same time we want to protect some of the unique features of downtown."
The City of Austin, along with several groups that helped create the Downtown Austin Plan, are hoping to do seven transformations in the next 10 years. Those are:
1. Initiate a new generation of downtown signature parks. Complete Waller Creek as a linear park between Lady Bird Lake and The University of Texas, along with Palm and Waterloo parks to provide a green "necklace" that can support the revitalization of Downtown's east side.
2. Complete the first phase of Capitol Metro's Urban Rail. Connect Downtown, the Capitol Complex, UT and the East Riverside Corridor. Enhance Congress Avenue --the Main Street of Texas -- and other urban rail streets to promote transit as a high quality mode of choice.
3. Re-imagine east Sixth Street as a destination for everyone. Improve the pedestrian environment, diversify activities, protect the unique historic character and provide for coordinated management, so that Old Pecan Street can live up to its full potential as one of the most unique streets in Texas.
4. Provide permanent supportive housing. Construct and manage safe, secure and affordable longterm housing and services for those who face the complex challenges of homelessness, substances abuse, mental illness or physical disability.
5. Invest in downtown infrastructure. Make utility and drainage improvements that address existing deficiencies and that support positive development in a sustainable way. Establish flexible funds and the leadership that can respond to development opportunities dynamically.
6. Amend the Land Development Code. Revise regulations for the downtown area to promote a mix of uses, incentivize well-designed dense development, preserve unique districts and destinations and result in buildings that contribute to a vibrant public realm.
7. Establish a Central City Economic Development Corporation. City government cannot do all this alone. A special entity should be created to leverage actions by both public and private sectors to develop projects that benefit the community, such as affordable housing, parks, cultural facilities and public infrastructure.
The Downtown Austin Plan is estimated to cost more than $250 million.
The plan will go before the Planning Commission and then possibly City Council sometime in late spring, where they would ultimately have to figure out how to fund the project.
Funding could happen through a potential 2012 bond proposal.
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