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Developing a draw for downtown Austin

By Roxana Orellana

rorellana@postbulletin.com

While people are optimistic that something can be done to attract more people to downtown Austin, the discussion continues on how that can be accomplished.

About 50 residents participated in the second "Take Part" workshop Thursday night. The planning process began in October with about 80 people taking part in the first workshop.

At one of the tables, the discussion revolved around funding and commitment to the work.

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"It's a step-by-step process. It's a big investment from the property owners," said workshop participant Dick Lang. To get that commitment from businesses, owners have to see something in return or some incentives, he said.

The group agreed that downtowns can't compete with malls and that to survive, there has to be something unique that attracts traffic.

But it all starts and ends with money, Lang said.

The group also discussed business' hours and how not even the merchants can agree on hours.

Jack Keenan of the Keenan's men's clothing store said the businesses are driving the customers out because of the limited hours.

Cindy Martin, whose family owns Bonnie's Hallmark, said she was impressed with the effort to make downtown appealing to everyone.

"As a business owner downtown, you want to see things progress and keep things in your town and see people come downtown and go away with a good feeling," she said.

The two consultants will use information collected in the past four months to create a trial plan for downtown.

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The plan will be revealed at the third workshop sometime in April at the Paramount Theatre.

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