The hiring of Mr. Cowan marks a milestone for the Merchants Association, officially formed in 2015 with the assistance of the City of Austin’s Souly Austin Program. Souly Austin is a program that builds capacity and provides resources to assist business leaders in creating and supporting vibrant, economically stable neighborhood business districts.
“The commitment, passion and creativity of the businesses in the Red River Cultural District has been the backbone to this milestone and the success of the Merchants Association,” said Nicole Klepadlo, Redevelopment Project Manager with the City’s Economic Development Department and lead on the Souly Austin program. “This is a very exciting announcement for the Red River District, our community and for the progression of the Souly Austin program. Six merchants associations, anchoring business districts have received assistance through the program to date, and the business leadership in our community has been outstanding.”
A core component of the Souly Austin program is ensuring that in partnership with the businesses, the merchants associations created are self-sustainable. The Merchants Association will privately fund the Executive Director position and looks forward to continuing to be deeply committed to preserving Austin’s live music heritage and building upon Red River’s iconic status as a center for live music and incubator for local musicians and artists.
Ryan Garrett, General Manager at Stubbs and Board Vice-Presidents shared, “The ability to have a dedicated Executive Director for the advancement of local businesses in the Red River Cultural District will pay tremendous dividends for our unique and diverse neighborhood. The hiring of longtime Red River resident Cody Cowan to the position of Executive Director of the Red River Merchant's Association will allow us more time to focus on our individual businesses, while advancing the district as a whole.”
The District is vital to the local economy specifically generating great impact towards the music, tourism and food industries. It’s home to 13 live music venues, hotels, local businesses offering food such as authentic Texas BBQ, Tex-Mex, pizza, an assortment of unique food trucks and cultural institutions including the German Texas Heritage Society and the Austin Symphony.
Working with the City of Austin’s Souly Austin program, the Red River Merchants Association has completed several projects to reinforce District identity and stabilize its economy. Major milestones have included the following:
District identity banners placed on street lighting;
A series of murals focusing on the history and heritage of Red River, located at Stubbs BBQ, Elysium, and Cheer Up Charlies;
Creation of the annual District-wide music festival Hot Summer Nights, which completed its second year in July 2018;
Secured funding for district signage and wayfinding;
Sound pilot resulting in extended hours for music venues resulting in revenue generation and supporting local musicians;
Public realm analysis including alleyway survey, and beautification concepts.