City moving forward with improvements to African American Cultural Heritage District

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Investment plans for the African American Cultural Heritage District in east Austin will move forward aiming to enhance the quality of life for residents and connect visitors to the area’s history, heritage and cultural sites, the city says. 

Austin City Council approved a resolution last year that reaffirmed the District’s resignation. The African American Cultural Heritage District was created in 2007, initially named the African Cultural Arts District. The city says it was created to 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.

“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 Economic Development Director Sylnovia 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.”

Holt-Rabb provided City Council with a memo on Thursday outlining 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.

The city says significant economic, historical and cultural sites reside within the District’s boundaries. The District reaches I-35 to the west, Airport Blvd. to the east, Manor Rd. to the north and East 11th/East 7th to the south. 

Some of area’s the significant sites include:

  •  Huston-Tillotson University
  • Down’s Field
  • The original Austin Public Library building
  • George Carver Washington museum 
  • The home of famed jazz musician Kenny Dorham
  • Historic Victory Grill
  • African American Cultural and Heritage Facility 
  • Designated historically significant homes and buildings

The District itself will select branding and signage to amplify the area as a cultural center on the east side of the city. 

The Live Music Fund Event Program is a pilot program that will give additional priority to projects that celebrate or showcase Austin’s diverse cultural heritage and music history. Projects that are presented or produced in the District will also be given additional priority. Musicians involved with live and online performances, recording studio productions, music video production and music broadcasting will be able to receive grants from the program. 

Austin’s Economic Development Department also entered into an agreement with the city’s Economic Development Corporation to help explore the feasibility of the East 1th and 12th streets Urban Renewal Plan. A strategic plan for the African American Cultural and Heritage Facility at 912 East 11th St. will also be developed.

The city says this neighborhood will be the first area in Austin to use a new framework developed to create, retain and enhance economic districts. 

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