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Austin Plans For Downtown Rejuvenation

Created: 07/14/2014 10:53 PM KAALtv.com
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- The face of downtown Austin is changing and city leaders, with the help of residents, are working on a new plan to help manage that growth.

A major flood control project is already reshaping North Main Street, and the Spam Museum is set to open at a new downtown location in 2016.

With the expected influx of visitors to the downtown area, city officials are working on a new master plan to help guide growth in the area.

"We're going to add a huge tourist attraction with tens of thousands of people walking past any given retail establishment,” said Laura Helle, director of Austin’s Vision 2020 project.

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

The city's master plan was last updated in 2005, and on Monday night, city leaders reached out to residents to get their input on how the new Austin should look.

Their suggestions covered everything both big and small, including increasing access to waterways, making connections between local bike and walking paths, improving signage to guide visitors around town, as well as increasing green spaces.

But one of the recurring concerns from business owners was having enough parking to accommodate potential customers.

"Parking can be an issue,” said Sandra Bell, owner of Twice Is Nice consignment store. “If we don't have parking, people will just go right by us and they won't stop."

Overall, most people were hopeful for a new chapter in the downtown area's history.

"I just think our downtown's really great and we're getting better,” Bell said. “So I'm excited to see all the new changes."

The master plan is more of an ideal vision for the city than a concrete project. But leaders said they're going to take the feedback from residents and meet several more times with downtown stakeholders before having a final version of the plan ready for city council approval this fall.