We need your input to ensure proposed Spirit of East Austin programs, policies, and strategies represent the best ideas to achieve fair, impactful change, and ongoing economic development in the Eastern Crescent! Community members help shape and provide guidance on the ideas described below.
Austin remains a racially and economically segregated city. The Mayor and City Manager, along with Council Members Houston, Renteria, Troxclair, and Pool initiated the Spirit of East Austin to break down barriers to an equitable life for many East Austinites. The community provided a large number of ideas for consideration. The Eastern Crescent includes neighborhoods and connecting areas in central East Austin, Colony Park, Del Valle, Dove Springs, Montopolis and Rundberg areas focused on jobs, housing, mobility, education, health and wellness, public safety, and the environment.
The Spirit of East Austin is about fairness. Your input is important to identify the best ways to open economic opportunities to East Austin communities.
Please read all the descriptions below and scroll down to the bottom. Some ideas contain subsections, and we would like you to comment on those subsections. Your thoughts and reactions are appreciated.
What do you like about these ideas? What concerns do you have? What would you change?
East Austin Jobs
Ensure that East Austin residents are able to take advantage of the economic prosperity much of city has experienced. We must identify and create greater access to opportunities for appropriate trainings for livable-wage paying jobs to ensure people enjoy a better quality of life including jobs near to where people live in the Eastern Crescent.
Create a broad jobs plan to raise the wages of local workers, particularly residents of the Eastern Crescent, to a level that will allow them to afford to live in the city and not be forced out of their community.
Reform City of Austin's Economic Incentive Programs to attract businesses that create better job and job training opportunities for current residents of the Eastern Crescent, to improve incomes and prevent displacement.
Work with Mexican Consul General to host Mexican startups funded by the Mexican central government (inbound foreign direct investment) that will provide training opportunities for Eastern Crescent residents. Create East Austin Economic Development Corporation or other 501 entity to receive equity in exchange for seed funding and subsidized space.
The City will support emerging creative districts (Springdale General, think EAST, Fashion District) initiatives to transform areas to focus on creative production and consumption. Creative Districts are places where creative entrepreneurs - artists, musicians, designers, tech innovators, makers and manufacturers - and neighborhood residents thrive and where locally designed goods and original works are made and consumed.
TechHire Pathway Program for underserved and people of color to participate in Austin’s Knowledge economy. Data shows that the knowledge economy is not distributing the gains from economic growth widely among all workers. Technical jobs continue to be in high demand. TechHire is a bold, multi-sector initiative providing rapid training for well-paying open jobs, often in just a few months.
Immigration is a significant driver of population growth and are fueling neighborhood revitalization and business growth. Policies that increase access to education, services, and living-wage jobs for immigrants, and remove barriers to their full and equal participation will help communities thrive. Policies promoting immigration inclusion and welcoming initiatives ensure immigrants have access to key services.
Austin’s recent experience demonstrates that a growing city can experience rising inequality and accompanying economic instability. A dashboard will be developed that considers various criteria to measure the baseline of social and economic conditions and progress made to affect those conditions. The dashboard will include such factors as: 1) Unemployment measured by rates of people of color, youth, and female; 2) Shared prosperity uses income growth of the bottom 40 percent of the population in the Eastern Crescent; 3) Public investment as a percent of city spending; and 4) Asset indicators including the poverty rate, average household with savings to cover basic expenses for three months, and the percentage of households with neither a checking nor saving acccounts.
A collaborative project that trains underserved individuals for high demand and livable-wage-paying jobs (e.g., healthcare and wellness, high tech, construction trades, advanced manufacturing and hospitality). The building would use net zero energy building standards, where the total amount of energy used annually by the building would be roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on site. A possible site is at Bolm Road and Airport Blvd.
East Austin Education Pipeline
Education is one of the strongest economic engines to create and sustain economic prosperity. Several of these suggestions include collaborations with nonprofits, schools districts, business, and government partners to improve opportunities for Eastern Crescent students to become ready for college and a career (i.e., training certificates, high school diplomas, college degrees).
Create an Applied Research Hub in East Austin, by bringing together employers ("scientific industry cluster"), Dell Medical School, University of Texas, Huston-Tillson University, and Austin ISD and Health Science Acadmies) to create applied research job opportunities and a pipeline of East Austin high school graduates and residents to fill those job positions and economic opportunities.
Saturday schools that have dual-generational curriculum will focus on strengthening cultural identity and improving academic and career success. Possible subjects include language arts; civil rights history; science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM); life skills; college and career preparations. Potential partners and hosts include Huston-Tillotson University, Mexican American Community Center, Austin Justice Coalition, and the Asian American Resource Center.
Review surplus City of Austin, Austin ISD and Travis County land for use to address housing, workforce development and other needs. This is in line with the City of Austin's (COA) recent resolution regarding COA purchase and preservation of Austin ISD properties to address equity.
Match curriculum in City funded after school programs to Community Workforce goals. Parks and Recreation Department facilities, libraries and local school districts could share common afterschool curriculum that includes science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM).
A community partnership to create an approach based on local input to positively impact academic achievement, school improvement, health and wellness, and economic outcomes for children, youth and families. By building partnerships and aligning systems, the coalition will address needs and gaps in services, overcome Austin’s historic inequities, and promote authentic engagement of parents, teachers, and community members. Community Schools would focus their efforts on a) High Achieving Academics including early childhood and college/career readiness); b) Out-of-School Time Programs (after and summer school); c) Student and Family Supports; d) Parent, Teacher, Youth, and Resident Leadership Development.
• STEAM Institute - Develop a dual-generational (for youth and adults) institute in partnership with HTU that include curriculums to instruct science, technology, engineering, the arts and math (STEAM).
• Innovation Zone Partnership - Huston-Tillotson University would develop a formal partnership with Capital City Innovation, Inc., to help establish businesses and enterprising start-ups to become part of the health ecosystem as part of the Innovation Zone.
• Mobility Engineer Institute - instruction for youth and adults to help expand the current and next generation of mobility engineers.
• HTU/ACC Restorative Justice Institute - centers training of restorative justice principles to youth and adults.
• HTU English Language Learners Instructors Institute - an institute to help fill the need for more English Language Learners instructors in Central Texas.
• HTU-KAZI Radio and Communications Institute - collaboration to expand dual-generational opportunities for careers in radio, television, print and social media.
• HTU-Free Net Digital Institute - a dual-generational institute purposed to help bridge the digital divide.
• HTU Teacher’s Institute for Equity and Inclusion in Teaching - a potential collaboration with other higher-ed institutions to train and re-train new and current teachers on the best practices regarding cultural competency, equity and inclusion.
Incentivize longer, paid internships that lead to a hiring opportunity with East Austin high school graduates (Austin, Del Valle, and Manor ISDs) and Austin Community College students and graduates.
Free internet and WiFi access service would help those who have no other access point to the internet and other social media resources. The Austin Public Library would like to add 300 WiFi hot spots to its circulating collection to be checked out from the Library to let anyone connect to a mobile-enabled laptop, smartphone, or tablet to the internet from almost anywhere – from buses, at home, and even on the park trail as long as they have a library card. For a 2-year period, an estimated $300,000 would include a Pelican Case, a connection plan with unlimited data access, management fee for vendor, and 300 WiFi Hotspot devices at no cost . WiFi Hotspots are checked out by students, teachers, people traveling, and anyone who is without internet service at home.
Healthy East Austin
The longstanding health disparities diminish the quality of life, impacts earnings, and shortens the lifespan of our community members. These suggestions should focus on services, training, and resources to help people achieve and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle while eliminating unfair practices and obstacles to nutrition, fitness, health and wellness resources.
Together with the Community Health Assessment - Community Health Plan (CHA-CHIP), appropriate health and wellness stakeholders develop collaborative and funded initiatives to eradicate health disparities (e.g., obesity, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease) in Eastern Crescent in a neighborhood level.
• Update: Council Member Garza sponsored the Food Desert resolution and City Council passed it on 3/3/16.
• Expand and scale up Food System Planning -- the City of Austin’s Office of Sustainability neighborhood based pilot to identify strategies and tactics that will improve access to healthy and local foods.
• Expand the Healthy Corner Store Initiative -- increase affordable fresh and healthy food options in corner stores.
• Build brick and mortar grocery stores of various sizes.
• Develop a mobile grocery store system.
• Expand existing grocery delivery services.
• Create a community powered Eastern Crescent integrated farm, food processor, and farm-to-table restaurant.
• Expand the Healthy Corner Store Initiative -- increase affordable fresh and healthy food options in corner stores.
By seeking help directly from community members, the program identifies and develops solutions to problems where residents are unfairly burdened by harmful environmental factors (i.e., poverty, high crime) and a long list of associated health risks. City- and county-wide Community Health Assessment (CHA)/Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) would separate city demographic information based on the zip code and neighborhood block level, see who is being impacted at the zip code level, and create interventions to focus on various groups.
The goal of the a digital health hub is to build a stronger and more connected health ecosystem region-wide by bringing public, private, academic and healthcare leaders together. The hub would enable the complete care record to follow the consumer regardless of the site of care; and create an ecosystem for the development of innovative tools and approaches that advance health and wellness. A digital health innovation hub will be established with the help of the City of Austin.
Connected East Austin - Mobility
The consequences of congested roads and inadequate transit system present unfair financial and opportunity burdens on many Eastern Crescent community members. We need bold, innovative, and proactive solutions to solve the problems of traffic congestion and other mobility barriers and ensure safe travel to and from work and school.
Consider expansion of local and limited stop transit service to planned activity centers and corridors in the Eastern Crescent.
Implement the lowered option for reconstruction of Interstate Highway-35 through downtown Austin, and capping with public open space.
Planning, engineering, and construction of the 28-mile Green Line which would connect Elgin, Manor, Decker Lake and downtown Austin with eight stations, reduce vehicle traffic, and provide another transportation option for residents destined for central Austin. The Line would help create new opportunities for job centers, retail, health and wellness, education, as well as expand equitable economic opportunities for the region’s highest percentage of low to moderate-income families.
Follow up on the recently passed Mobility Bond. For example, final design, engineering, and construction of East Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, East Riverside Drive, and Airport Boulevard Corridors; and begin the work to create safe pathways to school, better access to basic services, construct needed sidewalks, bike paths, safe pedestrian crossings, and effcient mobility options in the Eastern Crescent.
Flexible neighborhood mobility options (i.e., vans, transportation network companies and autonomous vehicles) intended to get residents to their chosen neighborhood destinations (e.g. the grocery store, cleaners, and health and wellness center) in the Eastern Crescent to facilitate safe, reliable neighborhood mobility.
Expand, scale and/or partner with cycling programs that operate in the Eastern Crescent with goals to increase the use of bikes to improve wellness and health outcomes; encourage wellness, recreation and mobility options in the Eastern Crescent; and provide job training and jobs in bike maintenance and retail sales for youth and adults.
Mixed-Income Housing & Inclusive Culture
Gentrification has caused the displacement of lower income families and small businesses as well as reduced affordable housing options. These suggestions seek to identify and implement policies and strategies to prevent involuntary displacement; preserve the rich traditions, historical communities, and cultural value unique to much of the Eastern Crescent; and create mixed-income neighborhoods.
A comprehensive strategy that will include goals and targets for mixed income housing in the Eastern Crescent.
Rewrite land development code to ensure mixed income, transit friendly housing supply in East Austin (CodeNEXT)
Place-based resource centers in each Spirit of East Austin communities. The Centers, a collaboration among City of Austin Economic development, community non-profits and the Innovation Zone, operate as community planning and development, employment and health information hubs. Utilize existing city assets (e.g., libraries, recreation centers, Asian American Resource Center, Mexican American Cultural Center, and the George Washington Carver Library and Museum).
The Austin Affordable Fund will acquire, invest in and preserve existing workforce housing for multifamily communities and people (i.e., teachers and public safety workers) targeting projects with access to various transit options to remain in the Eastern Crescent . Rental rates for our properties will only be raised at prevailing wage growth rates, significantly below historic market growth rates. The objective is for long term preservation of these homes through continued ownership by the fund or transition into other affordable rental or ownership opportunities.
Work focused on understanding and removing the systemic factors and institutional barriers to equitable opportunities and outcomes in our various systems (e.g., educational, jobs, health, public safety, financial and housing).
Policies and other tools that reduce involuntary displacement in re-developed communities (e.g., Displacement Index and Opportunity Index).
Create a strategy and funding to ensure preservation, revitalization and expansion of cultural assets (e.g., Downs Field, Phase II MACC/Mexic Arte, Rosewood Courts, and the Asian American Resource Center). Support Austin's creative spaces and cultural assets, while recognizing existing and potential cultural hubs; and inspiring the community's efforts to reveal and celebrate Austin's culture and creativity. Use the interactive Austin Historical Survey Wiki to find information about historic buildings, sites, and landscapes at http://beta.austinhistoricalsurvey.org/. Update: Council Member Houston sponsored the Rosewood Courts Historic Preservation resolution and City Council passed it on 6/9/16.
Use placed-based planning tools, such as Purpose Built Communities, to help cultivate holistic mixed-income communities that provide services (e.g., educational, employment, health and wellness, recreational and cultural) and allow residents to thrive.
Potential projects include:
• Completion of the Colony Park Master Plan
• Revitalization of the Travis County Expo Center.
• Decker Lake Park
Support the City of Austin's Chief Equity Officer in his work to include equity as a criteria for inclusion and/or prioritization of policies, identify policies important to low-income communities and people of color and other vulnerable populations, and prioritize provision of resources to areas that need it most (e.g., employment, distribution of resources and services).
Prioritize installing a new municipal pool at the Colony Park Recreational Facility as part of the City of Austin Aquatic Master Plan.
Mentors, artisans and craftsmen help residents at Community First, a supportive community for the homeless, to forge unique custom iron benches.
Each bench created symbolizes the combined efforts fueled by compassion, hope and a sense of community. Residents of Community First participate and experience the spirit of giving back to their community while learning invaluable job and life skills which allows them to become self- sustaining. Individuals and or businesses will sponsor the benches providing steady income and recognition to the residents. The City of Austin would allows us to showcase the benches throughout the city.
The benches will be a circle of reflection reminding us all that with help and encouragement the homeless community can be a productive segment of our city.
Safe East Austin - Public Safety
Local law enforcement leadership has sought approaches to improve communication and relationships with community members due to concerns about racial profiling and other forms of unfair practices. These proposals deal the need to increase community policing and improve the relationship between law enforcement and community (i.e., African, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian, and Native Americans, immigrants and refugees).
In partnership with schools districts, law enforcement, city and county, restorative justice is an approach to justice that personalizes the crime by having the victims and the offenders mediate an agreement to the satisfaction of each, involving the community to restore relations between offenders and the community at large. It is a proven approach to reduce crime and improve school attendance, academic performance, and community relations.
Green East Austin - Environmental Justice
Historically, there have been regulations and policies (i.e., city zoning) that contributed to polluted and unhealthy environments in East Austin. East Austin also is home to several unique environmental resources (i.e., parks, water, farm land). These recommendations should promote responsible stewardship, equitable access to nature, and general health and well-being to be enjoyed current and future generations.
Austin’s Cities Connecting Children to Nature Initiative is a strategic effort led by the Parks and Recreation Department to find ways city leadership can get more kids outside and connected to nature with a particular focus on children in low-income communities and children of color.
Beginning with a strategy of greening schoolyards which provide access to nature rich spaces for students and surrounding communities, the Parks Department will work with multiple city departments, Austin ISD, and dozens of non-profit organizations to ensure that every child in Austin has access to safe and vibrant outdoor space in their neighborhood.
A nonprofit organization that offers bilingual nature, science, and outdoor education opportunities for families to play and learn together in nature, inspire all families to fall in love with nature, and foster the next generation of conservationists. They would be located at Title 1 schools and communities throughout Texas. Camping gear, fishing poles, and teaching materials, and training are offered for outings, school events, group activities, and community leader trainings.
Encourage businesses to adopt a park or other beautification projects that can be a community benefit.
When negotiating housing and commerical business development, for example, public improvement districts (PIDs) and planned unit developments (PUDs), we seek to include parkland and open spaces for a variety of recreational activities and permanent mixed income housing in the Eastern Cresent.
Austin Energy had previously suggested moving their headquarters to the 18 acres it owns at East Riverside Street and Grove Boulevard.
Austin Energy contends that it will be cheaper to own its own facility long-term, rather than continuing to rent space. There is opportunity for the community (both the Montopolis and Dove Springs areas) from the development of a program based around energy innovation and a new energy economy.
The center would develop pathways to green jobs in manufacturing, construction, operation and maintenance and installation. Many jobs require “middle-skills” with more education than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year degree possibly bridging to high-skill professional jobs, entrepreneurial opportunities, perfect entry level or transitional jobs for neighborhood residents looking for a pathway out of poverty in the industries of the future.
Investments in a new training center at the Austin Energy property located in Southeast Austin should be considered in conjunction with Austin Energy’s interest in constructing an “energy campus.”