Residents can start offering their thoughts to the town concerning the future use and look of the Palm District, a bit of downtown that options historic buildings and is surrounded by fast progress and improvement.

Town will maintain a sequence of digital conferences and surveys to let these within the district share their ideas on issues resembling the way forward for the historic Palm Faculty, the growth of the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Middle, and the way the world that was as soon as a focus for Austin’s Latino neighborhood can higher replicate its heritage.

The destiny of the district has been a matter of accelerating significance lately. Earlier than the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, metropolis and county leaders had been engaged in a extremely public debate over whether or not the county ought to promote the Palm Faculty for personal improvement to maximise its money worth, or work with the town to transform it from workplace use right into a neighborhood gathering place.

Town strongly desired that the county not promote the varsity property for personal improvement. In spring 2019, Council adopted a resolution that tried to arrange a course of for constructing neighborhood consensus round the way forward for the Palm District and a number of other related belongings together with the Austin Conference Middle and the Rainey Avenue District.

The general public enter course of, which incorporates digital conferences on June 15-16, is a part of the district’s visioning section that may run into the summer season with lively planning lasting into the autumn. Adoption of a proper plan for the district is anticipated to happen in spring 2022.

Council Member Kathie Tovo, whose district contains the Palm District space, mentioned the town and Travis County leaders have to reopen talks on the eventual use of the varsity property. She mentioned if the town had been in a position to buy the property from the county it will doubtless be transformed from its workplace use to offer a cultural focus for the district.

“I’m nonetheless keenly desirous about seeing it stay a public constructing. I’d wish to see a extra public use within the constructing and people county places of work transfer out, so whether or not the county continues to personal it and works with the neighborhood to discover a new function for that constructing, or whether or not they accomplice with the town to do one thing alongside these strains, there’s super potential and a variety of neighborhood help for sustaining that constructing with an actual vibrant, lively public use,” she mentioned.

“One essential intention is to do all this work with the first concentrate on recognizing and celebrating the historical past of the Mexican American households who as soon as lived in that space.”

Tovo mentioned cash for enhancements all through the district might come from a partnership between the town and county, use of among the metropolis’s funding for historic preservation, and a few cash generated by the tax increment financing district created to fund the Waller Creek tunnel.

Council Member Vanessa Fuentes was among the many neighborhood organizers who pushed for a plan for the district earlier than she was elected final yr. She mentioned there may be robust help in the neighborhood to create a cultural heritage district primarily based largely across the Palm District to replicate the roots of residents who’ve been displaced in current generations.

“I’m excited to see the town is opening up the stakeholder course of and together with the neighborhood within the visioning of the Palm District,” she mentioned. “One piece I wish to amplify and uplift is across the Mexican American Cultural Heritage District that we now have not formally established however is a part of the dialog. With the transformation of the Palm District, the 2 of these pair very properly with that space stretching to Republic Sq. to create a pleasant hall.”

Fuentes mentioned public enhancements that must be included within the long-term plan embody finishing an growth of the MACC, making a gathering place for cultural celebrations, and offering public transit choices to let Latinos dwelling exterior of downtown simply participate in occasions involving their heritage.

Paul Saldaña, a neighborhood organizer who additionally helped with the push that led to the 2019 Council motion, mentioned the town must be as inclusive as potential for residents’ needs for the district that has been a subject of debate and dialogue for greater than 30 years.

“These conversations have gone on for greater than 30 years and the truth that Austin is rising leaps and bounds … there’s a variety of conversations about displacement, gentrification but additionally the lack of historic context for the place we now have been as a metropolis,” he mentioned. “Particularly for our neighborhood, the contributions of Mexican People, Latinos and the indigenous inhabitants is one thing that must be preserved and acknowledged transferring ahead by way of that course of.”

Picture by Nick Amoscato made accessible by way of a Creative Commons license.

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