City Sets Out Plan to Support African American Cultural Heritage District in East Austin

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Economic Development Director Sylnovia Holt-Rabb updated Council on progress being made to raise awareness of the District’s cultural significance, back local music industry projects, and explore the development of a block on East 11th Street. It follows a resolution to reaffirm the designated African American Cultural Heritage District and related initiatives approved by the Austin City Council last year.

“The City of Austin is dedicated to improving the quality of life for African American residents through the preservation of historic Black spaces, artistic cultivation, and by serving as a catalyst for social and economic development,” said Holt-Rabb. “Our efforts to support the African American Cultural Heritage District will ensure we continue to recognize, celebrate, and preserve the vital contributions of our Black residents.”

An African American Cultural Arts District was created in 2007 to formally recognize areas that have a concentration of African American landmarks, historical and cultural assets, and the legacy of the diverse and thriving African American residential, commercial, and cultural core of Black life in Austin. It was renamed the African American Cultural Heritage District the following year.

The District, whose boundaries reach I-35 to the west, Airport Blvd to the east, Manor Rd to the north and East 11th/East 7th to the south, contains significant economic, historical, cultural and heritage tourism sites. They include Huston-Tillotson University – the oldest institution of higher learning in the city – Down’s Field, the original Austin Public Library Building and George Washington Carver Museum, the home of famed jazz musician Kenny Dorham, the Historic Victory Grill, the African American Cultural and Heritage Facility, and scores of designated historically significant homes and buildings.

Today’s memo to Council notes that the neighborhood will be the first in the city to use a new framework being developed to create, retain, and enhance economic districts. This will include the planning, design and installation of signage and branding – selected by the District itself – to amplify the area as a cultural center on the eastside.

A pilot program, the Live Music Fund Event Program, has been refocused with new guidelines to give additional priority to projects that celebrate or showcase Austin’s diverse cultural heritage and music history, as well as those projects that are presented or produced in the African American Cultural Heritage District. The program provides grant funds to help musicians involved with live and online performances, recording studio production, music video production, and music broadcasting.

Additionally, the City’s Economic Development Department entered into an agreement with the Austin Economic Development Corporation to assist with exploring the feasibility of the East 11th and 12th Streets Urban Renewal Plan. The Economic Development Department will also solicit a consultant to develop a strategic plan for the African American Cultural and Heritage Facility at 912 East 11th St.

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