Notice cranes in the Austin skyline or fenced-off city blocks with deep holes in the ground? The constant construction is building the Austin of tomorrow, including five major mixed-use developments that span the South shore of Lady Bird Lake to the northeast tech corridor and are due to be completed over the next two decades.
EastVillage is a forthcoming mixed-use development in Northeast Austin. (EastVillage)
This $1 billion, 425-acre mixed-use development will be located on Parmer Lane, across from the Samsung Austin Semiconductor plant and in the heart of the northeast tech corridor. Developer Reger Holdings refers to the area as Austin's Upper East Side.
The first phase of the project, which includes a 312-unit apartment complex, recently broke ground and is due to be completed next spring. By 2028, when the development is expected to be completed, it will feature 2,000 multifamily units, 466 single-family homes, three hotels, 319,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 810,000 square feet of office space and 150 acres of wooded preserve.
The Capitol Complex will add a tree-lined pedestrian promenade on Congress Avenue between 16th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. (Texas Facilities Commission)
The Texas Capitol Complex master plan is a state effort that aims to centralize state agencies and construct a pedestrian mall along Congress Avenue between 16th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The $895 million project is due to be completed in three phases, according to the Texas Facilities Commission. The first phase includes the construction of two new state office buildings, the pedestrian mall and a two-story water utility plant, which are due to be completed between July and next May. The second phase is expected to be finished in 2025. There is also the possibility of a third phase, although funding and a timeframe have not yet been established.
The HealthSouth redevelopment has been called a catalyst project for the city's burgeoning health innovation district. (City of Austin)
The city's burgeoning health innovation district—a nexus of academic, business and public tenants focused on new health policies, systems and products—includes Dell Medical School, Dell Seton Medical Center and the redeveloped HealthSouth property.
Austin City Council recently entered into preliminary negotiations with Aspen Heights Partners regarding HealthSouth and its parking garage, on Red River Street, which could serve as the district's catalyst project. As proposed, it would include multi-bedroom affordable housing and affordable on-site childcare, live music and art venue space and publicly accessible open spaces.
Over the next decade, the district could create nearly 3,000 jobs, increase land value and property tax revenue, and generate $800 million in economic output, according to an analysis commissioned by the Downtown Austin Alliance.
South Central Waterfront
The South Central Waterfront plan will guide redevelopment of the area's 32 private parcels, the largest of which is the Austin American-Statesman building. (Endeavor)
Austin City Council adopted the South Central Waterfront Framework Plan in 2016, which will guide the redevelopment of 118 acres along Lady Bird Lake over the next 20 years. The area is made up of 32 private parcels, including the Austin American-Statesman property.
The $252 million plan charts out a network of connected green streets, public open spaces and a goal of 530 new affordable housing units. As proposed, the Statesman site will be redeveloped to include several buildings, some as high as 40 stories; an extension of Barton Springs Road from South Congress Avenue to East Riverside Drive; and 12.5 acres of public space, including a waterfront park.
The Austin Economic Development Corporation, which is helping to manage the plan, intends to create a tax increment reinvestment zone, or TIRZ, to help finance the project, which would require approval from Austin City Council. A TIRZ uses future tax revenue to finance new development.
The controversial River Park development is due to open in phases over the next two decades. (Sasaki)
This 97-acre mixed use development is slated for the intersection of Riverside Drive and South Pleasant Valley Road and will include more than 400 affordable housing units as well as 10 million square feet of offices, shops, hotels, parks and homes. It is scheduled to be built in phases over the next two decades, with a preliminary start date planned for 2023.
Bordered by Guerrero Park and Country Club Creek, the development will include access to the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail and more than 30 acres of public parkland and urban trails. It will also be served by a forthcoming light rail line planned under Project Connect.
Developed by Presidium, River Park has faced controversy and prompted concerns about gentrification. Defend Our Hoods—a local advocacy organization that Austin police has said overlaps with the antifa group Mike Ramos Brigade—protested zoning changes for the site, which its members call the Domain on Riverside. The University of Texas at Austin student government also asked Austin City Council to vote against the changes or replace the affordable student housing currently in the area.
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Austin's Delta 8 industry has been turned on its head after Texas health officials clarified that the cannabinoid is on the state list of illegal substances, though it was previously believed to be legal by most retailers, consumers and manufacturers.
House Bill 1325, which was signed in June 2019 by Gov. Greg Abbott, and the Farm Bill, signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2018, legalized any hemp product containing less than .3% THC. The same bills were thought to have made Delta 8 legal, though the Texas Department of State Health Services added a notice on its website saying it was still a controlled substance as of Friday, Oct. 15.
Both the federal and state governments keep separate lists on what is considered a controlled substance. Marijuana is considered Schedule I, a category reserved for substances with "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," both statewide and federally.
Austin-based CBD retailer Grassroots Harvest CEO Kemal Whyte, like many CBD shop retailers, was blindsided by the announcement. Many small businesses rely on Delta 8 for their sales—Green Herbal Care CBD said about 90% of its sales come from Delta 8—and Whyte said he is frustrated by the inconsistencies in the drug scheduling system.
Since 87% of Texans support the legalization of marijuana, at least for medical use, per a recent poll, Whyte said he wonders who this legislation is for.
"It's gonna have a massive impact on small businesses—there's just no way around it," Whyte said. "The reality is, we don't want to push out anything bad for our customers, we want this to benefit our customers and to help them. If we can make money while doing it, that's the American dream. What are we doing, whose benefit is this for?"
Delta 8 surged in popularity after the perceived legalization—consumers enjoyed its lower psychotropic potency, decreased anxiety while using it and the peace of mind as a legal way to get high. So in order to protect their products and livelihoods, both Grassroots Harvest and Austin-based manufacturer Hometown Heroes are taking legal action.
Whyte said Grassroots Harvest is suing DSHS, saying their action is creating negative effects in the market. Meanwhile, a Hometown Heroes spokesperson said the company is in the process of filing a temporary restraining order that would pause the ban on Delta-8 in the state of Texas.
Threats against Delta 8 are not new—DSHS lost a lawsuit trying to make "smokable hemp products" illegal last year and Texas lawmakers had been considering a bill that would make Delta 8 illegal, though it was dropped after the clarification was made.
Hometown Heroes released a formal statement in response to the DSHS rule.
"I need to be clear—we love Texas, we're just choosing to fight for the will of the people in regards to cannabis in Texas," Hometown Hero CEO Lukas Gilkey said in a statement. "(Texas DSHS) are using backhanded ways to create legislation and go against the will of the people."
Whyte laments the fact that it would be easier legally to "open up a strip club that also sells guns," and said he can't post customer testimonials that mention the benefits of Delta 8 without getting hit with a cease and desist from the Food and Drug Administration. Whyte said he isn't opposed to regulation—far from it—he just wants to see it go through the correct channels.
"The fact that they're stunting our ability to communicate with our clients that want to learn about this, you're preventing us from communicating with them and teaching them, or spreading information that we know," Whyte said. "I think that that in and of itself opens up a lot of questions."
Grassroots Harvest still has Delta 8 products on its shelves for the time being but for how long, Whyte doesn't know.
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Austin Public Health and other clinics around Austin are now providing booster shots for all three vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, to fully vaccinated individuals after both Pfizer and J & J were approved by the CDC on Wednesday.
APH and Austin clinics, which were already administering the approved Pfizer booster, will begin distributing shots as soon as Friday.
Those who received the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine more than six months ago are elligble to receive a booster if they are over 65 or if they are over 18 and:
- Live in a long-term care environment
- Have underlying medical conditions
- Work or live in high-risk settings, such as schools, hospitals or correctional facilities
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a media Q&A Friday that APH is encouraging boosters just as much as they have urged residents to get their first and second doses.
"Boosters are incredibly important to keeping our community protected and hospitalizations low," Walkes said. "If we can stay on top of our vaccinations, we provide protections for our most vulnerable and make it that much harder for COVID to spread in our community."
Eligible residents are free to choose the same booster as their first doses or "mix and match," per the CDC announcement.
Those looking for another dose can simply bring their vaccination card to APH centers or the dozens of Walgreens and CVS locations in the metro, which began administering doses Friday.
Additional updated guidance from the CDC allows for all eligible individuals to choose which vaccine they receive as a "mix-and-match" booster dose. It is advised to remember to bring your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Card showing the original doses with you when going for booster shots.
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