Austin to Update Downtown Master Plan

Created: 07/14/2014 6:58 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 News) -- Nearly every community would like to see growth in its downtown area. But managing that growth takes planning.

"In urban planning terms, they call it the central business district. In Austin we call it the downtown," said Vision 2020’s Laura Helle.

The city's last master plan for downtown was adopted in 2005. Now, the council has asked city staff to prepare an update.

"I think it's more of a destination, not just for shopping but for services," said Austin community development director Craig Hoium.

And two years from now, the face of downtown Austin is going to look a lot different than it does now.

“With the SPAM museum plans for going downtown, I think that's going to add a whole new dynamic," Hoium said.

In late September, the SPAM museum will close at its current location on north main street ... and in 2016 a new museum will open in the heart of downtown.

"Now we're going to add a huge tourist attraction with tens of thousands of people walking past those retail businesses," Helle said.

And that *could* mean redefining downtown.

"The main street project has a set of boundaries. Should those boundaries be expanded, and if so, where should they be expanded to?," Hoium asked.

And part of a new long-term plan will center around identifying the strengths of the downtown area -- and how they can work with the strengths of other parts of the city.

"I think you look at some of the businesses that can survive in downtown are more specialty-type businesses," Hoium told ABC 6 News.

And in the end, what's good for one part of the city is good for the whole city.

"We want Austin to be a vibrant, complete community," Helle said.

On Monday evening, the city hosted a community meeting to take comments from the public on the long-term future of the downtown Austin, and what citizens would like to see in the next edition of the master plan.