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AUSTIN EDITION - It's time to act, say downtown planners

We are part of The Trust Project.

By Roxana Orellana

rorellana@postbulletin.com

Now that people have taken part, something needs to get done in downtown, according to urban planners.

Consultant and urban planner Jack E. Leaman told Austin City Council members that his work is complete and that it's up to the city and private parties to make things happen.

Leaman gave a final presentation about the work he and urban planner Roger Smith did during the past nine months with the "Take Part" workshops.

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The project, a plan to help rejuvenate downtown Austin, involved coming up with ideas, concerns and possibilities for downtown.

Leaman talked about a carousel idea that had been mentioned. Councilman Brian McAlister said he had received calls from people saying the carousel idea was all "goofiness."

Leaman said the concept is to come up with something that is appropriate to Austin. "It's the idea again of something that is worth coming to see and that people will say, 'Have you seen what they've done in downtown Austin?'" Leaman said.

A "Main Street program" would move ahead with the suggestions and ideas collected in the Take Part process. It would be structured as a nonprofit corporation and be guided by a board. A director would coordinate volunteers and implement the program.

The city will use its summer intern, a graduate from Iowa State, to do some of this work.

The program will be split into four areas with four volunteer-based groups. The organization and finance committee will be in charge of coming up with a three-year budget and will approach potential funding agencies.

The promotion committee will "sell" a positive image of the commercial district.

The design committee will create an inviting atmosphere through physical improvements in the area.

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The business development committee's duties will include recruiting new businesses.

But already things are beginning to happen downtown.

The farmer's market, one of the promotion committee's tasks, will begin Thursday.

"There are some actual things happening while the more long-term plan is being developed, " Mayor Bonnie Rietz said.

Rietz said there has been interest from several business owners about fixing up their storefronts.

Councilman Pete Christopherson said he wants to make sure the city is not seen as "the bank" for some businesses owners.

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