The Daily Hustle: 6/14/10

No future for Red River?

The Daily Hustle: 6/14/10
by iamthejer/ Creative Commons

We've touched on most the hot topics at last week's City Council meeting, but lost in the hubub was council's hearing of the Waller Creek Master Plan. Since the Hustle is for the kids, let's take a look at the impact the plan could have on the live music scene along Red River.

At the heart of the Waller Creek improvements is a tunnel which will equalize water flow through the flood-prone creek, pulling much of the current development along Red River out of the 100-year floodplain. As few of the Red River music venues own their buildings (only Emo's and Stubb's), the worry is that redevelopment will force the businesses out, leaving a San Antonio Riverwalk-style tourist trap and "safe" music venues, if any, in its wake. (And seriously, are we not gonna allow whitewater rafting either?)

Off The Record has been covering the project of late, and last week, it came to council for a briefing; council approval is scheduled for June 24. While most of the discussion so far's focused on funding mechanisms and logistical questions, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez asked WC project manager Jim Robertson about what mitigating devices the city could craft to assist the smaller clubs that would be most impacted by development.

Robertson responded by listing four potential tools. The first, in an "embryonic stage right now," is a cultural mitigation fund. "In other words, if within the area of the TIF (Tax Increment Financing zone, where a portion of taxes generated by new development is set aside to help pay for new neighborhood improvements) ... we could consider imposing a fee that will occur upon the development of land and then we go into a cultural mitigation fund, which then would capitalize that fund and allow that fund to step in and try to alleviate some of the ill effects on the live music community along Red River."

Second is a utilizing the proposed density bonuses in the Downtown Austin Plan. "Within the Waller area it could be prioritized to create incentives for either the preservation of existing space, live music performance spaces, or the creation of new ones in the event of total redevelopment of a site."

Third and fourth, said Robertson, are an incentives program, "to provide incentives for live music, reduce permit fees, utility costs reductions and so forth," and tools like the city's business retention and enhancement fund, "to take steps to offset the economic effects of the redevelopment that may occur in the corridor."

A good preface to the discussion was the conversation between Mohawk owner James Moody and the Austin Music Commission last week, where Moody lamented the feeling among some Red River club owners that redevelopment is a fait accompli. (Sadly, it doesn't appear to be archived online by Channel 6.) Plus, as well meaning as some of the above recommendations sound, some seemingly don't take into account the gleefully scuzzy cultural character of Red River's punk and indie scene. Suffice to say, you won't see a club like Beerland on top of a T.G.I. Friday's. And with the explosion of the Eastside club scene, the Hustle wouldn't be surprised to see venues make the trek east of I-35, in search of cheaper rents.

TDH will keep you posted on all things Waller when it returns to council.

What the hell else is happening?

On the city calendar: The Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities meets in the Board and Commission room at City Hall, 310 W. Second, noon.

The 2010 Transportation Bond Citizen Task Force moves into the B&C room at 3pm. They'll discuss an initial draft recommendation.

The Board of Adjustment/Sign Review Board meets in City Council chambers at 5:30pm. Some 13 variances are on the agenda.

The Waterfront Planning Advisory Board meets at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs, Room 500, 6pm.

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