AUSTIN (KXAN) — There’s a proposal circulating through city council that aims to revitalize a stretch of 11th and 12th Streets east of Interstate 35.
It’s called the Urban Renewal Project, and its goal is to restore the Black Cultural District, according to a spokesperson for Councilmember Natasha Harper-Madison, whose district includes the area.
The project adjusts zoning restrictions to allow more businesses in the area.
“There needs to be opportunities for businesses to come in here and add some vitality to this neighborhood, so people in the neighborhood can walk to whatever it is they want to do,” said Harold McMillian, an east Austin resident in favor of the project.
“It’s what was once downtown Black East Austin,” he added.
Harper-Madison’s office said the driving force behind the project is restoring a part of town hit by institutional racism and gentrification.
City policies dating back to the 1920s led to segregation that resulted in the Black community moving to east Austin. In March 2021, city council passed a resolution addressing discrimination and offering a formal apology for the City’s role in any inequity.
The new proposal hopes to create an environment for a mixed-use, walkable neighborhood on E. 11th and E. 12th Streets.
“I would love to see live music venues here,” said McMillian.
Even with development over the years, the area remains primarily residential, which concerns Nick Fourie.
“Responsibility to make sure that everybody gains from a business that opens up in a mainly residential area,” he said.
Fourie does live a few blocks outside of the boundaries for the project, but after a recent incident involving a business near his home that received a temporary liquor license, he’s just asking city leaders to be cognizant of developing in the area.
“Playing thunderous music for about three hours,” he said about the late-August event that prompted him to reach out to KXAN.
He said he welcomes new businesses, including restaurants and bars, but he’s concerned about noise and parking near his home and in the area of the Urban Renewal Project.
“They have to consider residents when they open up these businesses because increased traffic with problems with parking and loud music,” he said.
There’s a small blue house near the corner of E. 12th and Chicon Streets that’s listed online as available for a commercial lease.
It’s advertised as a “perfect for a restaurant, bar or boutique.”
According to Harper-Madison’s office, the proposal wouldn’t allow for E. 12th to turn into Sixth or Rainey Street.
“They don’t Rainey Street here either. Neither do I or my neighbors,” said McMillian, who’s not just a resident but also very familiar with the project as a whole, he and the Harper-Madison’s office said.
Any new bar couldn’t be larger than 3,500 square feet, and future owners would have to apply for a conditional use permit, which involves additional public approval.
Council is set to vote on the plan next week.