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The Future of Downtown Austin—Growth, Community, & Public Space

Last week our team attended Bisnow’s Future of Downtown Austin panel. Led by our very own Jennifer Seay, the panel discussed upcoming changes and trends in the downtown including growing retail spaces, public art and parks, new transportation and public-private partnerships.

So much great insight was shared from our panel of industry experts! Here are a few key learnings:

Growing the Retail Space

With downtown Austin continuing to grow in both residential and hospitality spaces, the demand for more retail rises as well. When compared to other cities with similar thriving tourism industries, Austin lacks in terms of retail options. If the city wants its tourists and residents to stay in the downtown area, increasing the retail options is a key factor to ensure individuals don’t leave the downtown neighborhood to find it elsewhere.

Making Room for Parks, Public Spaces and Art Venues

As downtown rapidly increases its number of commercial and residential buildings, prioritizing room for public spaces is a key factor to ensuring Austin maintains its unique community. With parks acting as the great equalizers for cities and communities, they allow for civic expression through gatherings like events and parades. The resulting community from these spaces and their events leads to more growth along the borders of public spaces and parks such as the mass development along Republic Square Park and Lady Bird Lake.

The arts remain a huge part of Austin’s identity, and developers should work to preserve spaces that celebrate their role in our community. By partnering with philanthropic organizations, we can work to keep these spaces relevant and important in the continually changing downtown neighborhood.

Technology’s Effect on Transportation

Ridesharing services have already drastically changed how our community travels downtown. Before these services, residents living in far suburbs were not able to easily or affordably access the heart of Austin. Now that ridesharing services have made Austin’s downtown area more accessible by all, industry leaders are looking at new technologies such as self-driving cars.

In recent months, a new condominium building and a large hotel both opened in downtown Austin with zero parking spaces. As major projects are completed with limited or no options for parking, developers will rely more on new technology to ensure there is a consistent growth in the number of downtown visitors.

The Success of Public-Private Partnerships

Industry leaders are very optimistic about the possibilities public-private partnerships can offer our community. Ambitious and transformational projects like Green Street, the 2nd Street District and the new Dell Medical School and Seton Medical Center District would not have been possible without these types of partnerships. On the horizon are the Waller Creek and Shoal Creek redevelopments which will contribute over 40 acres of parks, trails, and public spaces to Austin’s urban landscape. With bold thinking and great leadership on both sides these developments will continue to transform downtown and build our community for many years to come.

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