The city is preparing to solicit an outside consultant to create an action plan for development of the portion of East Austin known as the African American Cultural Heritage District.
Economic Development Department Director Sylnovia Holt-Rabb last month sent a memo to City Council, providing updates on development efforts for the two city-owned parcels known as blocks 16 and 18, which are currently home to the Victory Grill and Kenny Dorham’s Backyard music venues.
The outside consultant would use feedback from a group of community stakeholders, which the city will identify, and potentially gather insight from direct interaction with them. Feedback sessions are expected to be concluded in the next six to 12 months, with the discussions guided by the goals of the 2021 resolution that sought to preserve and enhance the district.
The memo noted that no existing incentive programs administered by the Economic Development Department could specifically attract entertainment, creative or cultural business activities to the district. It did note there are two larger city-run programs related to business expansion that could be put to use there, while also identifying the Creative Space Assistance Program and the Live Music Fund Event Program as potentially helpful.
The city’s ongoing work to amend land use definitions – so they include and identify criteria for creative spaces – was noted for significant potential for the district. Those new definitions, which have been in the works since at least 2017, are needed for the city to design incentives and other tools for cultural districts, small business districts, maintenance and operations public improvement districts, and other voluntary districts led by business and cultural institutions.
The memo also reemphasized that the Economic Development Department and the Austin Economic Development Corporation are on the cusp of releasing a request for proposals for potential partners.
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