May 11, 2017 - 02:27 pm CDT

Similar to Austin and Portland, Seattle developed a program that assists neighborhood business districts in the development of a collective district vision. The Only in Seattle Initiative is a partnership between Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, the Seattle Department of Transportation, the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, and the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture to foster vibrant, financially stable business districts. The initiative empowers neighborhood business district to organize around a common vision and attract investment and provides comprehensive ongoing support to district looking to increase foot traffic, promote unique events, and ensure neighborhood cohesion and safety.

Only in Seattle supports over fifty (50) neighborhood business district organizations around the City of Seattle including the Beacon Hill Merchants Association, the Downtown Seattle Association, and the Georgetown Merchants Association, among others. The program offers business districts a variety of tools and resources including, but not limited to, online resources for business district improvement, grants, workshops trainings, and marketing and promotions. In 2017, the Only in Seattle Initiative invested $1 million in 21 business districts through the following services: business improvement area consultation, business outreach and engagement, mobile business consulting, placemaking consulting services, and city infrastructure improvements.

The initiative has identified five core principles that are critical components of a successful district: business organization, business and retail development, appearance and pedestrian environment, marketing and promotion, and cleanliness and safety. Only in Seattle believes that these qualities create flourishing business districts in vibrant neighborhoods that serve the needs of the community. Therefore, Only in Seattle’s support focuses on addressing the five principles through the development and implementation of projects that positively impact each of the individual district and the businesses within.

Every year, Only in Seattle collaborates with the business district merchants association and its partners to fully develop and implement placemaking, place branding, and infrastructure projects within each district to attract patrons and increase the economic vitality of each district. In late 2016, SDOT installed a wayfinding system within the Beacon Hill District. (insert wayfinding photo) That same year, the Chinatown-International District received funding for façade enhancement projects within the district. Similarly, the MLK/Othello business district received assistance from Only in Seattle to expand their “O Hello Othello” brand, including the improvement of their district website. (insert website screenshot) Furthermore, Only in Seattle also provides assistance to businesses districts who are interested in developing a strategic plan for their district and formally organizing as a merchants association or a business improvement district.

Both Only in Seattle and Soul-y Austin focus on the development of sustainable business districts that serve the surrounding community. Through technical assistance, grants, and district improvement projects both cities are continually seeking to improve the economic vitality of businesses while at the same time improving the experience for those who visit these destinations.

To learn more about the Only in Seattle Initiative and its unique business districts visit the Only in Seattle Initiative page or www.seattle.gov/economicdevelopment/business-districts

Mar 22, 2017 - 04:38 pm CDT

Just like Soul-y Austin, there are programs around the United States that focus on assisting business districts with the development of a sustainable business community that is anchored by a merchants association. Leading these efforts in Portland, Oregon, Venture Portland has been supporting the smart, strategic growth of Portland’s unique business districts since 1986. Venture Portland is a key partner in the City of Portland’s economic development efforts to create new jobs and stimulate neighborhood business vitality.

Through grants, training and technical assistance Venture Portland builds the capacity of and connections between Portland’s business districts. With over 30 members, Venture Portland has been able to develop a program that understands the challenges and opportunities that each individual business district experiences. From marketing and promotions to business district economic development grants, Venture Portland aims to help business districts strengthen their economic competitiveness while at the same time developing a district identity that sets it aside from all other communities and neighborhood business districts.

The trainings offered by Venture Portland includes marketing a business district, increasing merchants association membership, hosting a street fair, and the role of each association leadership position, among others. The grants provided by Venture Portland have assisted business districts improve their website and host events. Since 1995, $1.1 million has funded over 400 projects, leveraging more than $3.75 million in private investment.

Year round, Venture Portland District engage in a number of placemaking projects that leverage the unique strengths of the districts to drive traffic, better serve residents and customers, increase safety, walkability and livability. With support from Venture Portland’s District Identity/Placemaking Benchmark grant, the Historic Mississippi Avenue Business Association built a district wayfinding kiosk that utilizes their district map. The district, which is known for its rich cultural heritage, offers everything from quirky cocktails to living art and locally designed children’s toys. The wayfinding project aimed to improve the pedestrian experience along the district, strengthening the sense of identity and providing visitors with a pleasant, safe, and entertaining experience in one of Portland’s historic districts.

In addition to placemaking projects, Venture Portland supports projects that encourage districts to highlight their unique brand and competitive edge through the development of their web/social media presence. Venture Portland’s Web/Social Media Presence Benchmark grant has supported diverse projects among their districts including website development, blogs, mobile apps, website translation services, and social media strategies, among others. After receiving one of VP’s benchmark grants, the Montavilla/East Tabor Business Association was able to create a new district website that features photos of local business owners, a district map, a district events calendar, a complete list of association members, as well as information on how to join the association. Through these initiatives, Venture Portland seeks to better position its districts to increase and diversity their customer base to attract residents and visitors year round.

To learn more about Venture Portland, its initiatives, and its business districts visit: http://ventureportland.org/

 

Jan 25, 2017 - 02:21 pm CST

East Cesar Chavez, extending from IH-35 to Pleasant Valley Road, is home to a diverse business community including authentic Mexican cuisine and many other restaurants and delicious food trucks, art galleries, piñata shops, hair salons, boutique shops, fitness studios, community and religious services and many more. Businesses old and new have been working with the Soul-y Austin program to identify the opportunities and challenges of their district in hopes of creating a collective vision that will position them to further form an East Cesar Chavez merchants association.

Soul-y Austin became active in the district in September by having one on one conversations with interested businesses and then offering two district open houses that served as informational sessions on the program but also as a great networking opportunity for businesses to meet their neighbors. Businesses were able to address questions regarding their involvement and commitment to the program. Participating businesses include SprATX, Juniper, East 1st Street Grocery, Craftsman, Urban Squared Realty, and Mission Funeral Home.

The Soul-y Austin team values the importance of ensuring all businesses are invited and welcomed to participate but importantly educated on the opportunity. Soul-y Austin placed heavy emphasis on doing door to door outreach, successfully reaching over fifty (50) businesses along the corridor with assistance from our lead outreach team Morningside Research and Consulting.

During the one-on-one conversations, businesses mentioned parking, lighting, and sidewalk connectivity to increase walkability as their greatest opportunities to positively transform the district and increase the economic vitality of the area. Businesses also mentioned the importance of preserving the district’s character and rich history, and the cultural and diverse characteristics of the district, as these characters make East Cesar Chavez great.  Businesses met in December with the Soul-y Austin team to collectively catalog the assets and challenges to their district. Among the key themes mentioned businesses found commonalities in their thoughts including issues related to traffic, parking, walkability, business diversity, arts and culture, neighborhood character and safety. Overall the businesses focused on how the quality of life within the district could be improved and retained.

East Cesar Chavez District will spend the next few months banding together to create a unified voice that represents their business district. Through this process, E. Cesar Chavez businesses will receive a set of tools and resources that will assist in the formation of a merchants association through business leadership. Soul-y Austin’s goal is to empower the businesses to have a stake in their district and work together to increase the economic vitality of the area.

Jan 10, 2017 - 02:21 pm CST

Texas Community Building with Attorney Resources, known as Texas C-BAR, is a nonprofit organization that provides free resources and business law services to different organizations, primarily those that focus on improving the quality of life of low-income neighborhoods around the state. Texas C-BAR is joining the Soul-y Austin team for a second year in a row, after assisting in the formation of Soul-y Austin’s first two merchants associations: the Manor Road Merchants Association and the Red River Merchants Association.

Representing Texas C-BAR on our Soul-y Austin team is Andrea Harrington. Andrea graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, and later obtained her J.D. from the University Of Texas School Of Law. Andrea has been an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid since 2003, providing legal representation to micro entrepreneurs, facilitating pro bono small business legal clinics, providing legal education on legal issues that are relevant to small businesses, and also assists with pro bono referrals. After supporting Soul-y Austin during year one, Andrea has strongly developed her understanding of the program, making her the perfect candidate to support business districts as they embark on their association formation journey.

 

 

“What excites me about the future of Soul-y Austin is its potential to spread to different neighborhoods around the City, enhancing Austin’s commercial corridors” – Andrea Harrington

Texas C-BAR’s role within the Soul-y Austin process is to assist businesses within business districts with the formation of their merchants association. Andrea provides legal trainings to businesses focusing on merchants association formation, management, intellectual property, contracts, and association leadership, among others. Andrea’s guidance and legal counseling focuses on guiding business districts through the journey that seems more appropriate for their needs. Furthermore, Texas C-BAR provides assistance with the referral of a pro bono attorney that further assists businesses as they form their district merchants association, which includes drafting the association’s bylaws and filing the documentation needed to form an association. To learn more about Texas C-BAR visit their website: http://texascbar.org/

Follow our blog and watch for future posts as we share the highlights of Soul-y Austin and Austin’s unique business districts. If you have any questions or comments about this exciting opportunity, please contact Nicole Klepadlo, Redevelopment Project Manager at Nicole.klepadlo@austintexas.gov or 512-974-7739.

Dec 27, 2016 - 03:17 pm CST

Every year, the Red River Cultural District (RRCD) welcomes the New Year with their annual Free Week event - and this year is no exception. For one week, these venues will host over 100 free shows, providing Austinites with an opportunity to immerse themselves in the live music culture that strongly influences Austin’s character. Participating venues include Barracuda, Stubb’s, Mohawk, Cheer Up Charlie's, Empire, Swan Dive, and Sidewinder, among others. Visit the RRCD and experience the intimate, one-of-a-kind live music experience it offers!

Check out the Free Week schedule here: http://freeweek.do512.com/

Dec 15, 2016 - 02:11 pm CST

With over 15 years of experience, Morningside Research and Consulting has been reviewing public programs in the Austin Metropolitan area, specializing in conducting program audits, reviews, and evaluations; policy analyses; and data analyses and engaging with businesses. Their extensive portfolio and unique expertise has allowed them to, once again, join the Soul-y Austin team with the goal of conducting business outreach, which will ultimately determine the success of the program’s efforts in each district. Having led the outreach during the program’s first year, Morningside Research has strongly developed their understanding of Soul-y Austin – particularly related to the program’s goals and benefits – making them the ideal candidate for one to one business outreach.

Jesse Jenkins, Carter Robinson, and Jazmine Velazquez are leading the Soul-y Austin outreach efforts. Their role is to engage with the businesses primarily through in person interviews, emails, and phone calls. Through these outreach methods the Morningside team is able to educate businesses on Soul-y Austin and also provides them an opportunity to learn about each business, which them allows us to understand the different concerns, strengths, and opportunities that each business has. Jesse had the opportunity to lead the outreach efforts during Soul-y’s year one, and Carter and Jazmine have joined the team this year. Jesse mentions that his favorite part about the first round of districts during year one was “getting to meet and speak with so many different types of businesses, and getting to know each area”.

Business outreach and education are both critical components of the Soul-y Austin program. Through outreach and education, our team is able to empower businesses, allowing them to lead the efforts that will positively impact the area both physically and economically. Businesses are educated on the benefits of vibrant, organized commercial district and the power of collaborating with Soul-y Austin.  As the lead on the Soul-y Austin outreach efforts, Morningside Research plays a key role in developing business interest, specifically those that are interested in a leadership role within their business district community. In addition, the outreach and education component of Soul-y Austin allows the city to hear some of the district’s initial challenges and concerns, while at the same time providing an opportunity to learn about each individual business.

During the outreach process, Morningside Research has faced multiple challenges. In some districts, the main obstacle to communicating with businesses and educating them on the efforts is language. As Austin’s demographic begins to grow, new businesses are joining Austin’s commercial corridors and are contributing to the unique character of each area, but some are limited with their English speaking skills. Another challenge during the business outreach stage is the availability of business owners and/or managers. In many cases, the Morningside team would only be able to reach an employee, making it difficult to deliver the message and get businesses involved. Despite the challenges encountered, Morningside has been able to reach a significant percentage of businesses within each corridor, averaging over 50% in each district.

The Morningside team is currently conducting business outreach in two new districts, focusing on educating businesses on the benefits of forming an association and how Soul-y Austin can be of assistance. When asked about their favorite part of going door to door and meeting business owners, Carter and Jazmine mention how meeting the variety of businesses in each district is definitely their favorite, particularly how “each business has provided a unique perspective on challenges specific to their district as well as their vision for ways to improve the district”.

A big thanks to Morningside Research and Consulting for their hard work and support! To learn more about Morningside Research and Consulting visit: http://www.morningsideresearch.com/

 

“Our hope is that the Soul-y Austin program will help unify the businesses in each area and provide a platform for conversation across different types of groups”. –Carter Robinson and Jazmine Velazquez

 

 

Oct 24, 2016 - 11:54 am CDT

Soul-y Austin is thrilled to welcome Public City to the team! Public City joins Soul-y Austin as the lead in the placemaking efforts within our districts, assisting the newly formed merchants associations with project selection, development, and execution. Meredith Powell, co-founder of Public City, is taking the lead on the projects in the Manor Road District and the Red River Cultural District. 

Public City is a culture-driven public engagement consultancy and studio that focuses on creating authentic culture-based experiences that allow individuals to connect. Though it was officially founded in September 2013, Meredith tells us that the story of Public City dates back to 2006. Meredith and Sharon Lyle, her business partner, founded Public City after years of designing and producing transformational public programs and experiences for the organizations they both led, one of them being the Art Alliance Austin.

The Public City portfolio includes a range of projects nationwide. Their place based strategy and planning projects have ranged in scale from the cultural strategy for the State of Connecticut, to the Cultural Tourism Plan for the City of Austin, to the Public Art and Cultural Program Plan for Uptown, a Public Improvement District in the heart of Dallas. Their place based curatorial, design and execution work varies from public art and design project to TED-style content and programs. One of Public City’s projects includes their involvement in the citywide Drawing Lines, which allowed them to explore the transition of place through placemaking projects. Public City also collaborated in the 2013 Alley Activation project in Downtown Austin.

Meredith is a strong believer that placemaking can positively impact communities, expressing how “discovering and nurturing the unique character and qualities of specific geographic planning areas or places and building from there empowers a community’s commitment to the future they’re helping to determine”, and that’s exactly what we hope placemaking brings to our districts. We aspire that the collaboration between Public City, Soul-y Austin, the City’s Public Works Department and Austin Transportation Department, and the districts’ merchants associations will develop a placemaking approach that will strengthen the district’s identity, attract patrons to the district, and influence the district’s future. 

When asked about what excites her about working in our Soul-y districts, Meredith says how “for Soul-y Austin in particular though, we are laying the foundation for a city-wide program that puts culture at the forefront of its foundation. This is an incredible opportunity for Austin, and for Public City this is right in our wheelhouse. In each district we’ll uncover the unique character and qualities that make each place tick and we’ll build programs and projects that fuel the existing individuality that makes each place truly special”.

To learn more about Public City visit: public-city.org

Downtown Austin Alley Project, 2013

 

Drawing Lines Exhibition

 

Public City focuses on creating vibrant, unique spaces

 

Public City participated in the development of the Extra Yard for Teachers Summit, 2015

Sep 22, 2016 - 04:21 pm CDT

On Saturday, September 10th, 2016 East 12th Street hosted the Return and Discover East 12th Street festival. In partnership with Soul-y Austin, East 12th Street businesses are exploring the possibility of forming a merchants association to better advocate for their district. In order to attract other businesses to participate in the formation of the East 12th Street merchants association, participating businesses proposed a catalytic event that would bring businesses together, increase pedestrian activity along the district, and promote the unparalleled culture and history that comes along with East 12th Street.

The event kicked off with remarks from Council Member Ora Houston and Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, who were introduced by members of the community that were heavily involved in the development of the festival. Participating businesses, property owners, and organizations include Big Easy Bar and Grill, Sam’s BBQ, House of Elegance, Mission Possible, Full Circle Bar, Dozen Street, King Bee Lounge, Pearlie’s Kitchen, Red Wraps, Pakal, Rib Majesty, Ideal Barbershop, and the W.H. Passon Historical Society at the Southgate-Lewis Museum. Additional event supporters and participants included Austin Revitalization Authority, Huston-Tillotson University, Six Square – Austin’s Black Cultural District, Spectrum Theatre, and The Spirit of East Austin initiative.

For the rest of the afternoon, the event provided patrons with diverse family-friendly activities including live music at different locations, children’s games and face painting, a bounce house, a Bydee Art gallery exhibition at the Urban Co-Lab, historic talks at the famous Southgate-Lewis historic house, snow cones at Big Easy Bar and Grill, and food and drinks in various district restaurants and bars. Additionally, Spectrum Theatre had performances all afternoon ranging from musical acts to poetry readings. East 12th Street was more alive than ever – you could see how individuals and families walking, driving, and biking along the street were curious to see what was happening, forcing them stop and explore the businesses along the district. Some businesses reported record sales that day, expressing how the increased pedestrian activity brought by opening during the daytime and having live music positively impacted their businesses. Furthermore, the festival brought back those people who once called the street home, allowing them to share their stories with others. Ultimately, the festival brought businesses together, increased the pedestrian traffic along the corridor, and brought awareness of East 12th Street’s rich and unique history.

Read more about the event here:

http://kxan.com/2016/09/09/crime-drops-dramatically-in-east-austin-festival-highlights-progress/

http://www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2016/09/festival-city-help-hopes-begin-new-chapter-12th-chicon/

EVENT PHOTOS:

#RD12ATX kicked off with an outstanding West African dance and drumming performance

 

Return and Discover East 12th Street Festival

 

Patrons enjoying snow cones during #RD12ATX

 

Children enjoyed the bounce house and face painting at #RD12TAX

 

Visitors enjoy the Huston-Tillotson University Jazz Quartet performance at Urban Co-Lab

 

Soulman Sam performing at Big Easy Bar and Grill during #RD12ATX

 

Zounmountchi entertaining the Skeeball players at Full Circle Bar

 

Michael Hale Trio featuring MacMcIntosh performing at King Bee Lounge

 

Mojo Queen performing live at Dozen Street during #RD12ATX

 

Council Member Ora Houston joins East 12th Street property owner Creola Burns

 

Photo 301_2082: Lady B. Face Painting in action during #RD12ATX

 

Creative Action joined #RD12ATX and spent the afternoon doing arts and crafts with children

Aug 16, 2016 - 09:02 am CDT

Joining our team to lead the planning and visioning efforts for Soul-y Austin’s second round of districts is Asakura Robinson! Asakura Robinson is a planning, urban design, and landscape architecture firm that focuses on strengthening environments and positively impacting communities through innovation, engagement, and an integrated planning and design process. Since its founding in 2004, the firm has built a solid reputation for sustainable design solutions and design excellence around the United States and around the world. Asakura Robinson has offices in Houston, Austin, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Tokyo, Japan.

Photo courtesy of: Asakura Robinson

Asakura Robinson’s expertise in planning, urban design, and landscape architecture has allowed them to develop a respectable portfolio of projects which includes: Austin’s South Central Waterfront Small Area Plan, creating the master plan and planting plan for Houston’s MD Anderson Park, conducting a series of Healthy Community Design workshops in five different Houston communities, and developing the New Orleans Blight Organizing Toolkit.

Asakura Robinson has an extensive portfolio, including projects within business districts around the country. They have led projects that focus on community development, public engagement, economic development,   streetscape design, and residential and commercial development projects. Here are some notable projects:

 

  • The Washington Avenue Livable Center’s Study is a collaboration between the Houston-Galveston Area Council, Better Houston, the City of Houston, and Asakura Robinson. Washington Avenue corridor is one of Houston’s most unique places, attracting new businesses, restaurants and bars, artists, and residents. Asakura Robinson is leading the public engagement efforts and creating a report with recommendations relating to circulation and connectivity, public art, branding, district management parks and open space, bicycle and pedestrian amenities, affordable housing, and economic development. For more information on this project visit: http://www.asakurarobinson.net/portfolio-view/washington-avenue-livable-centers-study/
  • In 2011, Asakura Robinson led the North Main Street Rebirth project that was developed out of a series of community visioning projects funded by the Houston-Galveston Area Council in 2011. Asakura Robinson worked with local stakeholders in the historic, commercial corridor along North Main Street to develop and implement a long term strategic plan that focused on the use of cultural capital and vision of community institutions to guide and encourage economic development. For more information on this project visit: http://www.asakurarobinson.net/portfolio-view/independence-heights/

 

The City of Austin is excited to welcome Asakura Robinson to the Soul-y Austin team! For more information on the firm, their team, and their projects, visit http://www.asakurarobinson.net/.

Aug 01, 2016 - 08:56 am CDT

As the Soul-y Austin program continues to develop, participating districts are offered new tools and resources that will contribute to their activation, beautification, and stabilization.  In an effort to assist the newly formed merchants associations, Soul-y Austin will launch its first round of placemaking projects in the Red River Cultural District and the Manor Road District. Placemaking within the Soul-y districts will serve as an opportunity to demonstrate how powerful the district merchants association’s vision can be.

Placemaking focuses on capitalizing local community assets with the goal of creating public spaces that promote a healthy community, happiness, and well-being. Through the integration of art and culture into a community, placemaking intends to strengthen the district’s identity. Successful placemaking projects are a collaboration between stakeholders in a community that seek to activate a space in order to attract patrons, increase the economic vitality of the area, and transform the physical environment.

The newest member of the Soul-y Austin team, Public City, will be leading the efforts and engaging the businesses and stakeholders in each district. Public City will develop and execute district engagement strategies that will focus on collaboration among stakeholders to select the placemaking projects that best fit each districts’ character. The selection process is intended to build on placemaking ideas previously mentioned by stakeholders.

A number of cities in the United States have successfully activated their districts through placemaking implementation. Read about successful placemaking projects below:

Source: Dumbo BID

New York’s DUMBO Improvement District has created the DUMBO Fitness Loop, a pop-up one mile outdoor fitness loop that beautifies and activates the neighborhood’s underutilized parks and public spaces below and around the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The area has been brought to life with a series of fitness-themed, eye-popping, super graphic interventions, supporting the projects overall goal: to promote local public health, inspire long-term investment in NYC parks, and raise the visibility of DUMBO as a critical juncture of the Tech Triangle and downtown Brooklyn.

Source: Project for Public Spaces

Detroit’s Beach at Campus Martius launched in 2013 with the support of a Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant. The project, located in Downtown Detroit, embraces the spirit of lighter, quicker, cheaper as Detroit experiments on how to make downtown more pedestrian friendly. For the fourth year in a row, there is a seasonal beach in downtown Detroit complete with sand, colorful umbrellas, seating, a beach bar, and a custom deck. The Beach at Campus Martius has created a summer destination where residents and visitors can eat, drink, play, relax, and mingle – activating Detroit’s downtown.

Source: Park(ing) Day Dallas

On the third Friday of September each year, Dallas joins other cities around the world in temporarily transforming parking spaces into parks for the well-known Park(ing) Day event. Park(ing) Day Dallas is known for promoting social interaction, civic engagement, and creativity through individual generosity and play. During Park(ing) Day, local community members, organizations, and additional stakeholders transform downtown Dallas’ metered parking spaces into temporary parklets. Park(ing) day activities have transformed parking spaces into: gathering areas, yoga practicing spaces, areas for urban games, areas for music and public art, and others.   

The first round of Soul-y Austin placemaking projects are expected to be completed by summer 2017.

Mar 22, 2017 - 04:38 pm CDT

Just like Soul-y Austin, there are programs around the United States that focus on assisting business districts with the development of a sustainable business community that is anchored by a merchants association. Leading these efforts in Portland, Oregon, Venture Portland has been supporting the smart, strategic growth of Portland’s unique business districts since 1986. Venture Portland is a key partner in the City of Portland’s economic development efforts to create new jobs and stimulate neighborhood business vitality.

Through grants, training and technical assistance Venture Portland builds the capacity of and connections between Portland’s business districts. With over 30 members, Venture Portland has been able to develop a program that understands the challenges and opportunities that each individual business district experiences. From marketing and promotions to business district economic development grants, Venture Portland aims to help business districts strengthen their economic competitiveness while at the same time developing a district identity that sets it aside from all other communities and neighborhood business districts.

The trainings offered by Venture Portland includes marketing a business district, increasing merchants association membership, hosting a street fair, and the role of each association leadership position, among others. The grants provided by Venture Portland have assisted business districts improve their website and host events. Since 1995, $1.1 million has funded over 400 projects, leveraging more than $3.75 million in private investment.

Year round, Venture Portland District engage in a number of placemaking projects that leverage the unique strengths of the districts to drive traffic, better serve residents and customers, increase safety, walkability and livability. With support from Venture Portland’s District Identity/Placemaking Benchmark grant, the Historic Mississippi Avenue Business Association built a district wayfinding kiosk that utilizes their district map. The district, which is known for its rich cultural heritage, offers everything from quirky cocktails to living art and locally designed children’s toys. The wayfinding project aimed to improve the pedestrian experience along the district, strengthening the sense of identity and providing visitors with a pleasant, safe, and entertaining experience in one of Portland’s historic districts.

In addition to placemaking projects, Venture Portland supports projects that encourage districts to highlight their unique brand and competitive edge through the development of their web/social media presence. Venture Portland’s Web/Social Media Presence Benchmark grant has supported diverse projects among their districts including website development, blogs, mobile apps, website translation services, and social media strategies, among others. After receiving one of VP’s benchmark grants, the Montavilla/East Tabor Business Association was able to create a new district website that features photos of local business owners, a district map, a district events calendar, a complete list of association members, as well as information on how to join the association. Through these initiatives, Venture Portland seeks to better position its districts to increase and diversity their customer base to attract residents and visitors year round.

To learn more about Venture Portland, its initiatives, and its business districts visit: http://ventureportland.org/

 

SoulyATX
Jan 25, 2017 - 02:21 pm CST

East Cesar Chavez, extending from IH-35 to Pleasant Valley Road, is home to a diverse business community including authentic Mexican cuisine and many other restaurants and delicious food trucks, art galleries, piñata shops, hair salons, boutique shops, fitness studios, community and religious services and many more. Businesses old and new have been working with the Soul-y Austin program to identify the opportunities and challenges of their district in hopes of creating a collective vision that will position them to further form an East Cesar Chavez merchants association.

Soul-y Austin became active in the district in September by having one on one conversations with interested businesses and then offering two district open houses that served as informational sessions on the program but also as a great networking opportunity for businesses to meet their neighbors. Businesses were able to address questions regarding their involvement and commitment to the program. Participating businesses include SprATX, Juniper, East 1st Street Grocery, Craftsman, Urban Squared Realty, and Mission Funeral Home.

The Soul-y Austin team values the importance of ensuring all businesses are invited and welcomed to participate but importantly educated on the opportunity. Soul-y Austin placed heavy emphasis on doing door to door outreach, successfully reaching over fifty (50) businesses along the corridor with assistance from our lead outreach team Morningside Research and Consulting.

During the one-on-one conversations, businesses mentioned parking, lighting, and sidewalk connectivity to increase walkability as their greatest opportunities to positively transform the district and increase the economic vitality of the area. Businesses also mentioned the importance of preserving the district’s character and rich history, and the cultural and diverse characteristics of the district, as these characters make East Cesar Chavez great.  Businesses met in December with the Soul-y Austin team to collectively catalog the assets and challenges to their district. Among the key themes mentioned businesses found commonalities in their thoughts including issues related to traffic, parking, walkability, business diversity, arts and culture, neighborhood character and safety. Overall the businesses focused on how the quality of life within the district could be improved and retained.

East Cesar Chavez District will spend the next few months banding together to create a unified voice that represents their business district. Through this process, E. Cesar Chavez businesses will receive a set of tools and resources that will assist in the formation of a merchants association through business leadership. Soul-y Austin’s goal is to empower the businesses to have a stake in their district and work together to increase the economic vitality of the area.

SoulyATX
Jan 10, 2017 - 02:21 pm CST

Texas Community Building with Attorney Resources, known as Texas C-BAR, is a nonprofit organization that provides free resources and business law services to different organizations, primarily those that focus on improving the quality of life of low-income neighborhoods around the state. Texas C-BAR is joining the Soul-y Austin team for a second year in a row, after assisting in the formation of Soul-y Austin’s first two merchants associations: the Manor Road Merchants Association and the Red River Merchants Association.

Representing Texas C-BAR on our Soul-y Austin team is Andrea Harrington. Andrea graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, and later obtained her J.D. from the University Of Texas School Of Law. Andrea has been an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid since 2003, providing legal representation to micro entrepreneurs, facilitating pro bono small business legal clinics, providing legal education on legal issues that are relevant to small businesses, and also assists with pro bono referrals. After supporting Soul-y Austin during year one, Andrea has strongly developed her understanding of the program, making her the perfect candidate to support business districts as they embark on their association formation journey.

 

 

“What excites me about the future of Soul-y Austin is its potential to spread to different neighborhoods around the City, enhancing Austin’s commercial corridors” – Andrea Harrington

Texas C-BAR’s role within the Soul-y Austin process is to assist businesses within business districts with the formation of their merchants association. Andrea provides legal trainings to businesses focusing on merchants association formation, management, intellectual property, contracts, and association leadership, among others. Andrea’s guidance and legal counseling focuses on guiding business districts through the journey that seems more appropriate for their needs. Furthermore, Texas C-BAR provides assistance with the referral of a pro bono attorney that further assists businesses as they form their district merchants association, which includes drafting the association’s bylaws and filing the documentation needed to form an association. To learn more about Texas C-BAR visit their website: http://texascbar.org/

Follow our blog and watch for future posts as we share the highlights of Soul-y Austin and Austin’s unique business districts. If you have any questions or comments about this exciting opportunity, please contact Nicole Klepadlo, Redevelopment Project Manager at Nicole.klepadlo@austintexas.gov or 512-974-7739.

SoulyATX
Dec 27, 2016 - 03:17 pm CST

Every year, the Red River Cultural District (RRCD) welcomes the New Year with their annual Free Week event - and this year is no exception. For one week, these venues will host over 100 free shows, providing Austinites with an opportunity to immerse themselves in the live music culture that strongly influences Austin’s character. Participating venues include Barracuda, Stubb’s, Mohawk, Cheer Up Charlie's, Empire, Swan Dive, and Sidewinder, among others. Visit the RRCD and experience the intimate, one-of-a-kind live music experience it offers!

Check out the Free Week schedule here: http://freeweek.do512.com/

SoulyATX
Dec 15, 2016 - 02:11 pm CST

With over 15 years of experience, Morningside Research and Consulting has been reviewing public programs in the Austin Metropolitan area, specializing in conducting program audits, reviews, and evaluations; policy analyses; and data analyses and engaging with businesses. Their extensive portfolio and unique expertise has allowed them to, once again, join the Soul-y Austin team with the goal of conducting business outreach, which will ultimately determine the success of the program’s efforts in each district. Having led the outreach during the program’s first year, Morningside Research has strongly developed their understanding of Soul-y Austin – particularly related to the program’s goals and benefits – making them the ideal candidate for one to one business outreach.

Jesse Jenkins, Carter Robinson, and Jazmine Velazquez are leading the Soul-y Austin outreach efforts. Their role is to engage with the businesses primarily through in person interviews, emails, and phone calls. Through these outreach methods the Morningside team is able to educate businesses on Soul-y Austin and also provides them an opportunity to learn about each business, which them allows us to understand the different concerns, strengths, and opportunities that each business has. Jesse had the opportunity to lead the outreach efforts during Soul-y’s year one, and Carter and Jazmine have joined the team this year. Jesse mentions that his favorite part about the first round of districts during year one was “getting to meet and speak with so many different types of businesses, and getting to know each area”.

Business outreach and education are both critical components of the Soul-y Austin program. Through outreach and education, our team is able to empower businesses, allowing them to lead the efforts that will positively impact the area both physically and economically. Businesses are educated on the benefits of vibrant, organized commercial district and the power of collaborating with Soul-y Austin.  As the lead on the Soul-y Austin outreach efforts, Morningside Research plays a key role in developing business interest, specifically those that are interested in a leadership role within their business district community. In addition, the outreach and education component of Soul-y Austin allows the city to hear some of the district’s initial challenges and concerns, while at the same time providing an opportunity to learn about each individual business.

During the outreach process, Morningside Research has faced multiple challenges. In some districts, the main obstacle to communicating with businesses and educating them on the efforts is language. As Austin’s demographic begins to grow, new businesses are joining Austin’s commercial corridors and are contributing to the unique character of each area, but some are limited with their English speaking skills. Another challenge during the business outreach stage is the availability of business owners and/or managers. In many cases, the Morningside team would only be able to reach an employee, making it difficult to deliver the message and get businesses involved. Despite the challenges encountered, Morningside has been able to reach a significant percentage of businesses within each corridor, averaging over 50% in each district.

The Morningside team is currently conducting business outreach in two new districts, focusing on educating businesses on the benefits of forming an association and how Soul-y Austin can be of assistance. When asked about their favorite part of going door to door and meeting business owners, Carter and Jazmine mention how meeting the variety of businesses in each district is definitely their favorite, particularly how “each business has provided a unique perspective on challenges specific to their district as well as their vision for ways to improve the district”.

A big thanks to Morningside Research and Consulting for their hard work and support! To learn more about Morningside Research and Consulting visit: http://www.morningsideresearch.com/

 

“Our hope is that the Soul-y Austin program will help unify the businesses in each area and provide a platform for conversation across different types of groups”. –Carter Robinson and Jazmine Velazquez

 

 

SoulyATX
Oct 24, 2016 - 11:54 am CDT

Soul-y Austin is thrilled to welcome Public City to the team! Public City joins Soul-y Austin as the lead in the placemaking efforts within our districts, assisting the newly formed merchants associations with project selection, development, and execution. Meredith Powell, co-founder of Public City, is taking the lead on the projects in the Manor Road District and the Red River Cultural District. 

Public City is a culture-driven public engagement consultancy and studio that focuses on creating authentic culture-based experiences that allow individuals to connect. Though it was officially founded in September 2013, Meredith tells us that the story of Public City dates back to 2006. Meredith and Sharon Lyle, her business partner, founded Public City after years of designing and producing transformational public programs and experiences for the organizations they both led, one of them being the Art Alliance Austin.

The Public City portfolio includes a range of projects nationwide. Their place based strategy and planning projects have ranged in scale from the cultural strategy for the State of Connecticut, to the Cultural Tourism Plan for the City of Austin, to the Public Art and Cultural Program Plan for Uptown, a Public Improvement District in the heart of Dallas. Their place based curatorial, design and execution work varies from public art and design project to TED-style content and programs. One of Public City’s projects includes their involvement in the citywide Drawing Lines, which allowed them to explore the transition of place through placemaking projects. Public City also collaborated in the 2013 Alley Activation project in Downtown Austin.

Meredith is a strong believer that placemaking can positively impact communities, expressing how “discovering and nurturing the unique character and qualities of specific geographic planning areas or places and building from there empowers a community’s commitment to the future they’re helping to determine”, and that’s exactly what we hope placemaking brings to our districts. We aspire that the collaboration between Public City, Soul-y Austin, the City’s Public Works Department and Austin Transportation Department, and the districts’ merchants associations will develop a placemaking approach that will strengthen the district’s identity, attract patrons to the district, and influence the district’s future. 

When asked about what excites her about working in our Soul-y districts, Meredith says how “for Soul-y Austin in particular though, we are laying the foundation for a city-wide program that puts culture at the forefront of its foundation. This is an incredible opportunity for Austin, and for Public City this is right in our wheelhouse. In each district we’ll uncover the unique character and qualities that make each place tick and we’ll build programs and projects that fuel the existing individuality that makes each place truly special”.

To learn more about Public City visit: public-city.org

Downtown Austin Alley Project, 2013

 

Drawing Lines Exhibition

 

Public City focuses on creating vibrant, unique spaces

 

Public City participated in the development of the Extra Yard for Teachers Summit, 2015

SoulyATX
Sep 22, 2016 - 04:21 pm CDT

On Saturday, September 10th, 2016 East 12th Street hosted the Return and Discover East 12th Street festival. In partnership with Soul-y Austin, East 12th Street businesses are exploring the possibility of forming a merchants association to better advocate for their district. In order to attract other businesses to participate in the formation of the East 12th Street merchants association, participating businesses proposed a catalytic event that would bring businesses together, increase pedestrian activity along the district, and promote the unparalleled culture and history that comes along with East 12th Street.

The event kicked off with remarks from Council Member Ora Houston and Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, who were introduced by members of the community that were heavily involved in the development of the festival. Participating businesses, property owners, and organizations include Big Easy Bar and Grill, Sam’s BBQ, House of Elegance, Mission Possible, Full Circle Bar, Dozen Street, King Bee Lounge, Pearlie’s Kitchen, Red Wraps, Pakal, Rib Majesty, Ideal Barbershop, and the W.H. Passon Historical Society at the Southgate-Lewis Museum. Additional event supporters and participants included Austin Revitalization Authority, Huston-Tillotson University, Six Square – Austin’s Black Cultural District, Spectrum Theatre, and The Spirit of East Austin initiative.

For the rest of the afternoon, the event provided patrons with diverse family-friendly activities including live music at different locations, children’s games and face painting, a bounce house, a Bydee Art gallery exhibition at the Urban Co-Lab, historic talks at the famous Southgate-Lewis historic house, snow cones at Big Easy Bar and Grill, and food and drinks in various district restaurants and bars. Additionally, Spectrum Theatre had performances all afternoon ranging from musical acts to poetry readings. East 12th Street was more alive than ever – you could see how individuals and families walking, driving, and biking along the street were curious to see what was happening, forcing them stop and explore the businesses along the district. Some businesses reported record sales that day, expressing how the increased pedestrian activity brought by opening during the daytime and having live music positively impacted their businesses. Furthermore, the festival brought back those people who once called the street home, allowing them to share their stories with others. Ultimately, the festival brought businesses together, increased the pedestrian traffic along the corridor, and brought awareness of East 12th Street’s rich and unique history.

Read more about the event here:

http://kxan.com/2016/09/09/crime-drops-dramatically-in-east-austin-festival-highlights-progress/

http://www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2016/09/festival-city-help-hopes-begin-new-chapter-12th-chicon/

EVENT PHOTOS:

#RD12ATX kicked off with an outstanding West African dance and drumming performance

 

Return and Discover East 12th Street Festival

 

Patrons enjoying snow cones during #RD12ATX

 

Children enjoyed the bounce house and face painting at #RD12TAX

 

Visitors enjoy the Huston-Tillotson University Jazz Quartet performance at Urban Co-Lab

 

Soulman Sam performing at Big Easy Bar and Grill during #RD12ATX

 

Zounmountchi entertaining the Skeeball players at Full Circle Bar

 

Michael Hale Trio featuring MacMcIntosh performing at King Bee Lounge

 

Mojo Queen performing live at Dozen Street during #RD12ATX

 

Council Member Ora Houston joins East 12th Street property owner Creola Burns

 

Photo 301_2082: Lady B. Face Painting in action during #RD12ATX

 

Creative Action joined #RD12ATX and spent the afternoon doing arts and crafts with children

SoulyATX
Aug 16, 2016 - 09:02 am CDT

Joining our team to lead the planning and visioning efforts for Soul-y Austin’s second round of districts is Asakura Robinson! Asakura Robinson is a planning, urban design, and landscape architecture firm that focuses on strengthening environments and positively impacting communities through innovation, engagement, and an integrated planning and design process. Since its founding in 2004, the firm has built a solid reputation for sustainable design solutions and design excellence around the United States and around the world. Asakura Robinson has offices in Houston, Austin, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Tokyo, Japan.

Photo courtesy of: Asakura Robinson

Asakura Robinson’s expertise in planning, urban design, and landscape architecture has allowed them to develop a respectable portfolio of projects which includes: Austin’s South Central Waterfront Small Area Plan, creating the master plan and planting plan for Houston’s MD Anderson Park, conducting a series of Healthy Community Design workshops in five different Houston communities, and developing the New Orleans Blight Organizing Toolkit.

Asakura Robinson has an extensive portfolio, including projects within business districts around the country. They have led projects that focus on community development, public engagement, economic development,   streetscape design, and residential and commercial development projects. Here are some notable projects:

 

  • The Washington Avenue Livable Center’s Study is a collaboration between the Houston-Galveston Area Council, Better Houston, the City of Houston, and Asakura Robinson. Washington Avenue corridor is one of Houston’s most unique places, attracting new businesses, restaurants and bars, artists, and residents. Asakura Robinson is leading the public engagement efforts and creating a report with recommendations relating to circulation and connectivity, public art, branding, district management parks and open space, bicycle and pedestrian amenities, affordable housing, and economic development. For more information on this project visit: http://www.asakurarobinson.net/portfolio-view/washington-avenue-livable-centers-study/
  • In 2011, Asakura Robinson led the North Main Street Rebirth project that was developed out of a series of community visioning projects funded by the Houston-Galveston Area Council in 2011. Asakura Robinson worked with local stakeholders in the historic, commercial corridor along North Main Street to develop and implement a long term strategic plan that focused on the use of cultural capital and vision of community institutions to guide and encourage economic development. For more information on this project visit: http://www.asakurarobinson.net/portfolio-view/independence-heights/

 

The City of Austin is excited to welcome Asakura Robinson to the Soul-y Austin team! For more information on the firm, their team, and their projects, visit http://www.asakurarobinson.net/.

SoulyATX
Aug 01, 2016 - 08:56 am CDT

As the Soul-y Austin program continues to develop, participating districts are offered new tools and resources that will contribute to their activation, beautification, and stabilization.  In an effort to assist the newly formed merchants associations, Soul-y Austin will launch its first round of placemaking projects in the Red River Cultural District and the Manor Road District. Placemaking within the Soul-y districts will serve as an opportunity to demonstrate how powerful the district merchants association’s vision can be.

Placemaking focuses on capitalizing local community assets with the goal of creating public spaces that promote a healthy community, happiness, and well-being. Through the integration of art and culture into a community, placemaking intends to strengthen the district’s identity. Successful placemaking projects are a collaboration between stakeholders in a community that seek to activate a space in order to attract patrons, increase the economic vitality of the area, and transform the physical environment.

The newest member of the Soul-y Austin team, Public City, will be leading the efforts and engaging the businesses and stakeholders in each district. Public City will develop and execute district engagement strategies that will focus on collaboration among stakeholders to select the placemaking projects that best fit each districts’ character. The selection process is intended to build on placemaking ideas previously mentioned by stakeholders.

A number of cities in the United States have successfully activated their districts through placemaking implementation. Read about successful placemaking projects below:

Source: Dumbo BID

New York’s DUMBO Improvement District has created the DUMBO Fitness Loop, a pop-up one mile outdoor fitness loop that beautifies and activates the neighborhood’s underutilized parks and public spaces below and around the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The area has been brought to life with a series of fitness-themed, eye-popping, super graphic interventions, supporting the projects overall goal: to promote local public health, inspire long-term investment in NYC parks, and raise the visibility of DUMBO as a critical juncture of the Tech Triangle and downtown Brooklyn.

Source: Project for Public Spaces

Detroit’s Beach at Campus Martius launched in 2013 with the support of a Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant. The project, located in Downtown Detroit, embraces the spirit of lighter, quicker, cheaper as Detroit experiments on how to make downtown more pedestrian friendly. For the fourth year in a row, there is a seasonal beach in downtown Detroit complete with sand, colorful umbrellas, seating, a beach bar, and a custom deck. The Beach at Campus Martius has created a summer destination where residents and visitors can eat, drink, play, relax, and mingle – activating Detroit’s downtown.

Source: Park(ing) Day Dallas

On the third Friday of September each year, Dallas joins other cities around the world in temporarily transforming parking spaces into parks for the well-known Park(ing) Day event. Park(ing) Day Dallas is known for promoting social interaction, civic engagement, and creativity through individual generosity and play. During Park(ing) Day, local community members, organizations, and additional stakeholders transform downtown Dallas’ metered parking spaces into temporary parklets. Park(ing) day activities have transformed parking spaces into: gathering areas, yoga practicing spaces, areas for urban games, areas for music and public art, and others.   

The first round of Soul-y Austin placemaking projects are expected to be completed by summer 2017.

SoulyATX