Sixth Street renovation designs face opposition

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As Austin City Council continues to plan renovations to Sixth Street, some local bar and business owners claim extensive construction will cause disruption, decrease traffic flow and dismantle the street’s historic features.

The proposed renovations, designed in partnership with the Public Works Department, would widen sidewalks, add street lighting and multi-use transit lanes and update the infrastructure underneath the sidewalks. Capital Outputs program coordinator Susan Garnett said the plan should allow for more pedestrian and bicycle traffic and reduce motor vehicle congestion. Though the full budget has not yet been calculated, Garnett said the project will cost an estimated $19 million.

Jason Carrier, who owns four bars on the street, said the renovations would severely limit pedestrian access to the sidewalks and decrease revenue, potentially putting bars out of business.

“[City officials] have been assuring us that it’s for the better, saying that they will incentivize the contractors to finish on time,” Carrier said. “There’s no such thing as a city project finishing on time.”

Business owner Carl Daywood has proposed an alternate plan he said would generate revenue for the city and cost less than the city council’s current proposal. Daywood said the city plan would disrupt students’ ability to access live music, bars and entertainment downtown.

“We submitted a survey or letter, whatever you want to call it, to the director of Public Works,” Daywood said. “Eighty-six out of 112 property owners signed their names [saying] that they are opposed to the plan that the city of Austin is proposing.”

Daywood said the alternate plan would expose the original red brick under the street, keep historic light fixtures and add angle parking. He said the alternate plan will save the city more than $16 million and increase parking on Sixth Street by 60 percent.

Daywood said some demographics will not go downtown except by car.

“We’re not New York — this is Texas,” Daywood. “There are people who won’t ride buses.”

Daywood said the city is spending money to fix things that have not presented problems yet, including replacing existing storm drains, which he said have not led to flooding. 

“The city wants to say, ‘What if it does fail, maybe in 10 or 20 years?’” Daywood said. “But it’s not failing now, so why do we want to spend $20 million when it’s not
failing yet?”

Daywood said the existing storm drains created in the 1980s are more than adequate.

“I’m 62 years old, and I was born and raised on Sixth Street,” Daywood said. “There’s no flooding.”

Garnett said the city is aware that the majority of stakeholders want to maintain the historic features of the original Sixth Street designs and will work to preserve the features. Garnett said updating the storm drains now is more cost efficient and would last up to 80 years.

“The only thing about those alternate options is that [they’re] from only one group of stakeholders,” Garnett said. “Now, we’re trying to see what the majority wants.”