It’s hard to believe that anyone would describe downtown as “good, not great,” let alone Mayor Kirk Watson 30 years ago.
Downtown Austin wasn’t always the same retail, housing, and community hub that it is today. Some would commute for work or classes at the University of Texas, but in 1993, abandoned buildings and lack of entertainment space meant people weren’t staying past 5 p.m.
Cue the Downtown Austin Alliance
With the goal of creating a city center Austinites wanted to flock to, Austin City Council partnered with the Downtown Austin Alliance to create and manage a Public Improvement District that encompasses much of downtown in late 1993.
Focusing on advocating for downtown’s beautification and safety, the Downtown Austin Alliance partners with stakeholders to fund updated spaces for locals to take pride in, like the Congress Avenue Urban Design Initiative Vision Plan.
Now, the alliance hosts community events, and serves 700 businesses, 16,000 residents, and 96,000 workers. The program has been reauthorized five times since its inception and is up for review again in 2032.
Clad in red polo shirts, the ambassadors are the friendly folks that patrol the streets picking up litter, tending to flowerbeds, and offering directions to visitors between 6 a.m.-11 p.m. daily. Around 50 are walking downtown at any given time — 365 days per year — including during a pandemic.
Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation
The nonprofit arm of the Downtown Austin Alliance was established in 2019 with a mission to foster Austin’s public art scene by funding new pieces, implementing projects, hosting events like Writing on the Walls, and leading guided tours of local murals.
But this barely scratches the surface of the Downtown Austin Alliance. Any questions about the group? Let us know.