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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Wednesday, May 1, 2019 by Jo Clifton
DAA launches annual report and new nonprofit
Amidst a multitude of rosy economic statistics on Tuesday, the Downtown Austin Alliance released its first State of Downtown report at the inaugural Future of Downtown event. The report seeks to be “a market snapshot illustrating the central role downtown plays as Austin’s economic, governmental and cultural center.”
The taxable property value for downtown property has risen to $13 billion as of 2018. Mayor Steve Adler told the Austin Monitor that while the property represents only one half of 1 percent of the city’s land area, it accounts for 10 percent of Austin’s total assessed value.
According to the report, downtown generates “20 times more tax revenue than the city average on a per acre basis.” In addition, the report notes that downtown’s share of Austin’s property value “has doubled in the last 10 years, reinforcing its economic importance to the region.”
Adler said at the event, “The Downtown Austin Alliance serves as a trusted steward of downtown Austin, and their ongoing work significantly helps make our downtown a truly special place. The forward-thinking downtown vision is imperative to maintaining a downtown that is the cultural, economic and development hub of our region and which generates tax revenue critical to funding projects all over the city.”
Dewitt Peart, president and CEO of DAA, said in prepared remarks that the release of the State of Downtown report should be seen as “the start of a journey. The community’s vision for the future of downtown is based on inclusion, vibrancy and resilience. We’re putting partnerships in place to help us achieve the 20-year vision for downtown. Producing this report on a yearly basis will keep us focused on making progress toward the vision and will help us recognize success and identify challenges that we face as a growing downtown.”
Adler also announced the creation of the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation, which he predicted would “bring together corporate leadership and philanthropic investment to create a lasting legacy in downtown Austin.”
Adler told the Monitor that the downtown alliance is “creating a new arm to help create more charitable opportunities in the city. I think it’s important. Municipal challenges cannot be addressed by the city alone and on the city’s tax base. One of the reasons this city works is because of businesses and philanthropists and individuals … who are willing to give of their time, their resources and money. And to create another avenue for that kind of partnership is a good thing.”
Adler said the report “points out real graphically the degree to which it is true that Austin’s downtown is truly the economic engine, not only for the city but for the region. I often tell people if they want a pocket park or a clinic in their neighborhood in and around Austin, the best way to get that done is for there to be another downtown high-rise building …. That’s what pays for much we like to see in our city.”
The report says that downtown currently has 26 projects under construction, including 3,017 residential units, 2,040 hotel rooms, 148,832 square feet of retail space and 12,632 square feet of restaurant space. In addition, 32 new projects are in the planning phase. That includes nearly 3,400 residential units, 930 hotel rooms, nearly 45,000 square feet of restaurant space and 166,181 square feet of retail.
According to the report, downtown provides jobs to more than 93,000 employees. Of those, 71 percent live within the Austin city limits. The report also says that the number of residents living downtown has grown to 14,600. “The strong demand to live downtown coupled with a historically limited supply of options have pushed downtown rental rates north of $2.50 a square foot, approximately double the rate for Austin as a whole,” the report says.
The report says that demand for class A office space downtown is outpacing supplies and “causing vacancy to fall to 5.4 percent.”
The report includes some fun facts: Austin ranks first among places to start a business. It ranks fourth among cities to hold conferences, and is first among “best cities for live music,” according to Thrillist.com, but we already knew that.
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