AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council unanimously agreed Thursday to fast-track several improvements to the Red River Cultural District in downtown.
Business leaders in that area had pushed for more than three years for some of these projects, but they said a recent string of violent crime finally made the city act.
“Improvements to the Red River Cultural District have been a long time coming, but it’s been worth the wait,” said Ryan Garrett, the general manager of Stubb’s Bar-B-Q.
The projects will cost an estimated $1.3 million, according to a memorandum published by the city last year. Those will include the installation of new planter boxes and landscaping in the area as well as improvements to sidewalks and curbs.
Business owners told KXAN that they are especially relieved to know that a problematic alleyway will finally be blocked off to the public. The alley in question is located between two shuttered bars, The Sidewinder and Beerland, on Red River Street near Seventh Street. It currently provides a cut-through to Waller Creek.
“There’s been a lot of scary stuff that’s happened down that alleyway,” Garrett said.
He said these projects became a much higher priority after about 75 business leaders held an emergency meeting last week with city officials and law enforcement about three recent shootings in the area.
“It created a greater sense of urgency,” Garrett said. “A wake-up call.”
The city will also work to place additional lighting throughout the district, which gives Courtney Kirk a better sense of comfort to walk there at night.
“I think that’d be a great improvement,” Kirk said. “That would hopefully bring some prosperity back to the businesses down here. They’re starting to sweat with the high cost of rent and the lower margins they’re seeing with everyone moving to Rainey [Street] where there’s less homelessness or the Domain where there’s less homelessness.”
The plans call for more trash cans to be placed throughout the district, too. Several people told KXAN that they hope that will improve the look and feel of the neighborhood.
“We’re really thrilled about the next steps and making this district look better, safer, cleaner — that’s our objective,” Garrett said.
The city could begin working on these projects as early as Nov. 1, though an official start date is not yet known.