AUSTIN (KXAN) — City council will move forward with creating a mixed-use science and research district in the area surrounding the Domain that could help provide resources for the emerging life sciences industry in Austin.
All members approved the resolution, with council member Alison Alter choosing to abstain from the vote.
The resolution says council will support an amendment to the North Burnet/Gateway Regulating Plan to create new rules for how the area can be developed and used. The plan was created in 2006 as a way to guide the development of the area to make sure it helped tackle the growth challenges of Austin.
Over the years, the area has changed from industrial and warehouse structures to more mixed-use development, such as housing, office spaces, and retail stores. Now, there is a demand for more resources for life sciences.
Life Science industry in Austin
According to a joint report by Austin Medtech Connect and Austin Next released this summer, the amount of venture funding into life sciences in Austin increased ten times between 2017 and 2023. The report says there are more than 260 companies in Austin employing more than 18,000 people, a nearly 74% increase in job growth in the past three years.
Life sciences can be broken down into multiple sections, like biotech, pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, and research.
Dr. Jawad Ali is a surgeon and the president of Austin Medtech Connect, an organization with a mission to connect all the various stakeholders in the life sciences industry to help deliver the next generation of health tech and healthcare delivery in central Texas. He co-authored the report released this summer.
Dr. Ali says the industry can continue to grow, but it needs help doing so. Currently, a problem preventing growth in Austin is the lack of lab spaces, Dr. Ali explained. When comparing lab space to other top cities, Austin is behind. Boston has 52.7 million square feet of available lab space, while Austin has just 1.6 million square feet, according to the report.
This resolution would open the door to creating more lab space in the city, and Dr. Ali is in full support of the effort.
“It’s also a strong signal to the industry that the public sector is behind these efforts, and so it facilitates further growth,” Dr. Ali explained.
This new resolution, along with the new medical center coming to downtown Austin will add much-needed infrastructure.
“I think it’s important for efforts like these to be done in coordination with local partners so that it can be built in a way that addresses real needs,” Dr. Ali said.
District 6 council member Mackenzie Kelly is one of the co-sponsors of the resolution. She said in an email to KXAN, “Investing in our community is crucial for growth and prosperity. Item #27 holds the potential to contribute to the local economy, enhance the quality of life, and promote community engagement. This resolution will bring life sciences, labs, biomedical, and more to Austin, making it essential to support the betterment of our community.”