Photo by John Flynn
Wednesday, April 27, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki
The city’s economic development corporation is moving forward with evaluating proposals from creative groups vying for a portion of the $16.9 million cultural trust fund for creative spaces, but its role in managing the development south of Lady Bird Lake is in limbo as the real estate market moves forward.
Staff at EDC, a nonprofit, quasi-governmental agency created last year to pursue development around goals of affordability and job creation, are currently evaluating the cultural trust’s 45 funding proposals. A May 19 meeting with the candidates will brief them on the process that has been created in part to determine the long-term needs for safeguarding and creating creative spaces in the city as real estate prices continue to drive further development. artists and groups outside the region.
But one of EDC’s other primary roles is managing financing and securing deals for public works projects, such as a new transit station, in the South Central Waterfront neighborhood, south of the Congress Avenue, which would be paid for through a proposed tax. increase in reinvestment area. The TIRZ, which would channel property tax revenue increases in the area to infrastructure across the region, is still being discussed by the city council, with further progress not expected until July.
The wait means EDC cannot do any meaningful work on proposed improvements such as street widening or development-related utility issues, while projects such as the redevelopment of the former property of Austin American-Statesman Advance.
David Steinwedell, the longtime real estate professional who chairs EDC’s board, said he and other board members or staff can’t do much about the high profile neighborhood until the Council moved forward with the TIRZ which was discussed as a lifeblood. component of the neighborhood’s redevelopment for years.
“Without the TIRZ, there’s probably no role for EDC because they’re two intertwined things, and unfortunately we can’t accomplish much because we have to have that in place. There’s a lot of interest in ensuring that the South Central Waterfront can achieve a wide variety of goals, including what is going to happen with the lake and parks as well as affordable housing and cultural venues goals,” a- he said “There are a lot of moving parts and I think unfortunately because of the number of moving parts nothing comes close to the speed we want it to go while the private market is efficient and find ways to get things done.”
With new CEO Theresa Alvarez in place, EDC’s major projects include assisting with real estate transactions and related services related to two city parcels (known as Blocks 16 and 18) on East 11th Street, and the completed a real estate analysis of the Interstate 35 Reconstruction project, with a focus on equity issues.
Alvarez, who joined the group in February after spending his career in financial services at Wells Fargo, said the scope of EDC’s priorities are ambitious and will need to be assessed against the transactions it makes related to cultural spaces and affordability.
“In other cities, you might have an organization that’s just focused on what we’re doing with the cultural trust, and that might be a full-time organization. And you would probably see a south-central waterfront EDC, and it would just focus on the south-central waterfront,” she said. “Real estate investing will be our way of measuring success. We’re taking the city’s underutilized assets and making them valuable and delivering the community benefits we seek, whether it’s artistic venues, creating jobs, everything that this region needs and how it is determined.
With the evaluation of the cultural trust proposal advancing, Alvarez said the first grant recipients will be the first step in the pipeline of projects that EDC will seek to assist through municipal funds, future philanthropies and fundraising, or low-interest loans that she and others can help run arts groups.
“The idea is not just to hand out dollars. It creates the pipeline that goes to every artistic venue and every artistic group that has very unique specific needs in their offerings. We are looking at the question of how to leverage, connect and secure not just additional funding, but additional resources. »
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