AUSTIN EDITION Historic district among recommendations for downtown

Roxana Orellana

Austin community members have ideas on what could make downtown Austin more viable.

More than 80 people met Tuesday for the first of three workshops the city put together to develop a plan to revitalize downtown.

Among their top suggestions:


Keep the courthouse or government offices downtown.

Develop a historic district.

Renovate the former Silver Bullet building.

Although plans for the area have been on the city's agenda for some time, plans to build a new justice center have brought the issue to the forefront.

The city contracted with urban designers Roger Smith and Jack Leaman to help put together a plan for downtown by using ideas from those living or working in the area.

"We had government officials, businesses owners, city staff and community members here," Mayor Bonnie Rietz said. "A wonderful blend of citizens."

Rietz said she was worried that people would lose interest and not attend the workshop after it was canceled last month due to the flood.

Participants toured seven downtown sites, analyzed what they liked and disliked about the sites, and shared ideas of what might be improved.


"It's refreshing to see that a lot of the business owners and people in the community have a similar vision to revitalize downtown," said Kyle Keenan, a downtown business owner.

For Austin resident Aaron Stewart, the workshop provided an opportunity to sit down and talk about the development of his city.

People are thinking along the same lines and agree that something needs to be done. "When people come to a consensus …; there will be some action," Stewart said.

The city also plans to look at commercial properties in the flood plain.

Other ideas from participants included:

Remove facades from some store fronts to expose the architecture.

Demolish the Silver Bullet building and market the property or make it more compatible with the area.

Use the Silver Bullet building for a club.


Build an "old fashioned hotel" in the USEM's building.

Create a music and cultural area around the Paramount using the Silver Bullet building.

Have a trolley from the Spam Museum to downtown.

Offer bike rental near the Spam Museum.

Move Austin Packaging Corp. to the Industrial Park and make the area a green space.

Create an automobile museum in the USEM's building.

Turn the bar area into more parking.

Offer sleigh rides and horse-drawn carriages to bring people from the Spam Museum to downtown.


Add signage at the museum to direct people downtown.

Have an up-scale restaurant and wine bar for people "who are not 21 or 101."

Build a parking ramp or something that looks nicer than flat parking.

Renovate the Silver Bullet building into an art center.

Build up-scale condos, along with specialty shops and a grocery store in the area.

During the second workshop, the consultants will present a plan that uses the group's suggestions and priorities.

During a third workshop, participants will come up with a strategy to implement the final plan.

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