ARA Accomplishments

RECEIVED Fri., Aug. 7, 2009

Dear Editor,
    One component missing from this article about Austin Revitalization Authority is any real account of our accomplishments over the years, which I believe should be an important part of any analysis of whether or not we have been an effective organization [“What's Next for the ARA?” News, Aug. 7]. We feel your readership will be able to come to a better-informed conclusion regarding ARA if they are aware of our accomplishments to date, including:
    1) Building the East Room night club and shut it down, which greatly cut down on crime in the neighborhood (1997).
    2) Developing the Central East Austin Master Plan and East 11th and 12th Streets Community Redevelopment Plan (1995-1999).
    3) Managing the lengthy processes to make changes to the CRP to reflect the community’s changing development priorities (2001-present).
    4) Completing the $850,000 rehabilitation of Shorty’s Bar (the Haehnel Building, 4,400 square feet of office space) at 1101 E. 11th (2001).
    5) Producing SoulFest, a concert that helped bring jazz back to 11th Street (started in 2001).
    6) Managing the $4 million infrastructure improvement project on East 11th and Juniper streets that upgraded 70-year-old water and sewer lines and produced 11th Street’s murals, clock tower, and arch (Phase I completed 2003, Phase II completed 2005).
    7) Building the $12.4 million, 57,000-square-foot Street-Jones and Snell Buildings on 11th Street (2004).
    8) Focusing on recruiting small and minority-owned businesses to occupy the Street-Jones and Snell buildings – currently the building is 97% occupied, and 40% of the space is leased by small or minority-owned businesses (starting in 2003 and ongoing).
    9) Helping to push forward African-American Quality of Life initiatives, including getting the African American Cultural District designated (in which East 11th Street is included) (initiative approved 2007).
    10) Completing construction of two community parking lots to serve small businesses in the area (2008).
    11) Building 11 affordable homes on Juniper, Curve, and Olive streets with another house currently under construction (final house to be completed 2009).
    Additionally over the past five years, ARA has provided assistance to 52 microenterprises. ARA has assisted private developers in purchasing city-owned land, assisted businesses in securing facade-improvement grants, provided low-cost architectural services to businesses on 11th and 12th streets, and provided assistance to other nonprofits working to revitalize the area.
    I would like to invite everyone in the community to walk down East 11th Street, particularly those familiar with the conditions in 1995, and see the difference our efforts have made. Completing these projects wasn’t easy. If it had been, the private sector would have undertaken projects here long ago.
    Though 12th Street has not developed as quickly as we would have liked, now that the effort to bring about large-scale changes to the zoning of the street (a process managed by ARA) has been completed and as the economy rebounds, we are hopeful that the environment will again be conducive to development and will continue to work to attract private development to the corridor.
Dr. Charles E. Urdy
Chair, ARA board of directors
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