Charles Heimsath, Ben's cousin, is president of Capital Market Research, which produces feasibility studies and other number-crunching for real estate developers and public agencies on "everything from lakeside property to downtown condo conversions," he says. Charles is also economic development chair of the Downtown Austin Alliance. Despite his close links to developers, Charles labels himself "a closet planner ... acting as a bridge between groups. I try to not be as rigid as some in the development community."
Clare Barry is another architect, currently (and, to people who know her, incongruously) employed by a large, not-always-friendly state agency. She is also one of the most seasoned veterans of the Austin neighborhood politics scene, having been a leader of both the Brentwood NA -- between Burnet and Lamar in North Central Austin -- and the Austin Neighborhoods Council.
Tere O'Connell, another architect, is also a specialist in historic preservation; formerly a key staffer at the Texas Historical Commission, she now serves on the city's Historic Landmark Commission. She's also been president of the Old West Austin Neighborhood Association (Clarksville and thereabouts) and the leader of that neighborhood's planning team, which is finishing up work on one of the 10 pilot projects in the city's neighborhood planning program.
Bob Paterson is the newbie of the group, having come to Austin in 1991 to teach in the UT School of Architecture's community and regional planning program. Focusing on land-use and environmental planning, Paterson has worked on a number of local efforts, including the Community Vision Project, the development of the city's sustainability indicators, and a land-use study and plan for Montopolis. He is also a past president of the South River City Citizens NA (Travis Heights and environs).
Bernice Butler was at the time of the roundtable still executive director of the Austin Revitalization Authority, a position she resigned in November to start a private consulting practice. Like both Heimsaths, Butler is a native Austinite who spent several years -- 24, in her case -- out in faraway lands before coming home. She came to the ARA by way of Dallas and Miami, where she was involved in comparable inner-city redevelopment projects.
Mark Rogers is in real life an art historian, with a Ph.D. and everything, who's been an adjunct professor at Southwestern University, UT, and UT-Arlington. But most of town knows him as the executive director of the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation, often cited as Austin's most successful community nonprofit housing developer, which has built more than 100 rental and sale units for low- and moderate-income residents in East Austin. He's also been a leader of the Guadalupe neighborhood itself, and serves on the ARA board and the city's Building Standards Commission.
Oh yeah, and me, writing furiously. Luckily, Ben Heimsath had agreed to handle facilitating the discussion; if I'd had to ask the questions as well as transcribe the answers, my head would have exploded.