One of Austin's own was named among the top kids of 2020, according to TIME magazine. We've compiled the latest news headlines around Austin to help catch you up on this story and other breaking news around the city.
Here is what we have shared so far this week:
Dec. 4: Austin teen is one of TIME's best this year and 4 more headlines you might've missed
16-year-old Austinite Ian McKenna was named a finalist for TIME magazine's Kid of the Year honor.
1. Best kid in Austin: For the first time, TIME magazine awarded its first Kid of the Year, and Austin's own Ian McKenna was among the five finalists for the honor. The 16-year-old gardener was recognized for helping curb youth hunger with produce he grew himself.
2. Tourists might save music venues: Austin is dishing out $15 million in emergency relief money to "iconic" Austin music venues, pulling from hotel tax dollars typically used to fund the convention center. This is the first time the city has deemed it legal under state law to use tourism hotel taxes for this purpose, potentially setting a new precedent, Community Impact reports.
3. State troopers in the city: The state wants to take over law enforcement efforts from Lady Bird Lake to 32nd Street and from I-35 to North Lamar Boulevard—and possibly to MoPac, according to The Texas Tribune. That means state troopers would patrol the streets instead of city and school cops under a proposal touted this week by Gov. Greg Abbott.
4. Utah monolith doesn't stand alone: After a viral frenzy over a mysterious monolith appearing and disappearing in the Utah desert, Austin Community College is getting involved in the fun. KXAN reports that ACC's welding department built a metal triangular column similar to the one magically showing up across the globe.
5. Whole lot of office space: Whole Foods Market is building a second downtown office building next to its 15-story West Sixth Street tower, which was constructed in 2017. The new building, slated for completion by the end of 2021, will be shorter than the original. TOWERS reports this news helps explain the unique architectural choices of the original development.
Dec. 3: This South Austin strip mall is getting a major facelift and 4 more headlines you might've missed
Brodie Oaks Shopping Center at South Lamar Boulevard and Loop 360 will be revamped into a 3 million-square-foot mixed-use development by late 2022 or 2023.
(Barshop & Oles)
1. Major South Austin project announced: Brodie Oaks Shopping Center at South Lamar Boulevard and Loop 360 will soon become a mixed-use development with more than 3 million square feet of newly developed residences, retail and restaurants—and one-third of the project includes office space, too. The development will be the size of two Barton Creek Square Malls, according to the Austin American-Statesman, and it won't be ready until late 2022 or 2023.
2. Tax bills behind schedule: Wondering why you haven't been hit by a Travis County tax bill yet? KVUE learned that most people haven't received their 2020 tax statement because the county waited to see how November's election might impact the city's tax rate. Keep in mind that property valuations were frozen last year, so the tax impact could be less severe in 2020—check here if you cannot wait for the mail to see the damage.
3. Slice of Sundance here in Austin: Austin Film Society will host a satellite location of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, which is going virtual this year. Austin Chronicle reports the prestigious movie festival, normally held in Utah, is tapping independent theaters around the country to decentralize the event next year, with AFS hosting "social distant screenings" to festival-goers.
4. Pennybacker bridge jumper speaks: FOX 7 talked to the 21-year-old South Austin man who jumped off Pennybacker Bridge in a recent viral video. Naturally, he doesn't regret it and gained about 1,000 extra YouTube followers out of the whole deal—as well as a fractured skull, brain bleeding and emergency surgery.
5. Final call for COVID relief: The city is accepting applicants for its emergency relief funding, which still has more than $4 million leftover for Austin residents who lost income during the pandemic. The city told Austonia in mid-October that less than $1 million had been distributed so far due to low demand. Qualifications have since been updated to enable more access to the relief money, with nearly $8.5 million now distributed to needy residents.
Dec. 2: Mayor Adler called out for Cabo trip and 4 more headlines you might've missed
1. Mayor Adler doesn't lead by example: While COVID-19 cases spiked in early November following the Halloween weekend, Mayor Steve Adler urged Austinites to "stay at home." As it turns out, his message was broadcast from Mexico where Adler traveled after his daughter's wedding ceremony in Austin. Austin American-Statesman reporter Tony Plohetski reports that health officials urged gatherings to be limited to no more than 10 people at the time, yet the wedding hosted about 20 guests who were "probably not" wearing masks the entire time, Adler admits.
2. 11 APD officers disciplined: Confrontations with police in late May resulted in several protestors getting injured by pepper spray, bean bags and foam bullets. Now KVUE has counted 11 police officers that have been punished for their actions during those protests—including a cop accused of calling a protestor "that gay dude." KXAN reports that multiple lawsuits have also been filed by protestors against APD, and Police Chief Brian Manley updated use-of-force policies following the protests.
3. Unemployed? Receive a $100 relief gift card: If you're a musician or worked in the hospitality industry, you likely qualify for a $100 H-E-B gift card from the Red River Cultural District. The business group of mostly music venue owners has distributed $155,000 so far this year in COVID-19 relief money, according to Austin360, and this fourth round of support includes $45,000 for unemployed music industry and service workers.
4. Road rage is rampant: Local officials think road rage is a greater issue locally than the 14 combined cases reported so far this year. FOX 7 talked to traffic patrollers who are concerned that COVID-19 and holiday stress could add to the road rage shooting in southeast Austin last week.
5. New mental health hospital: Austin State Hospital is being rebuilt in Austin's Triangle neighborhood as part of a $305 million, 380,000-square-foot project. The area for the 80-acre campus has been cleared, KVUE reports, putting the 240-bed mental health hospital on track to open by June 2023.
In a Thursday tweet, Elon Musk denied Austonia’s report that he’s planning to build a private airport somewhere east of Austin.
“Not true,” Musk wrote. That “would be silly,” noting that Tesla is “5 mins from Austin International airport.”
Austonia sources have told us Musk is frustrated with the slow pace of Austin-Bergstrom’s capacity expansion and may have offered ABIA substantial funding if the airport accelerated its timetable for improvements specified in its Airport Expansion & Development program, also known as the 2040 Master Plan.
We contacted Mookie Patel, the airport’s Chief Officer Business & Finance. Our response came from an airport information officer who said that “we have not received any offers from Mr. Musk or his companies,” but didn’t say whether there had been discussions.
We’ve also heard that Musk wants ready access to an east/west runway, which ABIA does not have. His tweet mentioned that “the existing commercial airport needs another runway.”
Since publishing our original story, we’ve heard from readers who’ve suggested Musk could get additional capacity by taking over or joining an existing airport project in the Austin-Bastrop corridor. We know of two:
- Greenport, a 5,000 acre Bastrop project that’s advertising available facilities pending a 2022 opening. A site rendering shows an east/west runway. A person associated with the project, TR Reid, said “in terms of any kind of speculation or rumors or whatnot, we wouldn’t comment on that.”
- Central Texas Airport, a project that’s in an undetermined state of development, near the intersection of FM 969 and FM 1704.
If you have any first-person insight into any aspect of this story, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nick Nanakos is taking the long view.
Founder and CEO of Austin-based ZIKI, Nanakos is on a "multi-decade, global-scale conquest to build the most significant company to ever exist in food."
His Spartan ancestry has made him a fighter for excellence, and his Macedonian heritage (think Alexander the Great) may be what helps drive him toward empire.
Venture capital firm Gigafund, core Elon Musk backers who invested more than $1B into SpaceX, are backing Nanakos's expansive vision of disrupting and transforming the food industry on an industrial scale.
His plan to optimize and re-aggregate multiple elements—ingredients, chefs, cooking techniques, agriculture, teams, factories, real estate, systems, technology, design, and logistics—all integrated on a foundation of proprietary technology, reminds at least one of his investors of a famous trillion-dollar Austin-based company.
"ZIKI is approaching restaurants the same way Tesla approaches cars—with a master plan to be the fastest, most creative company in the category," said investor Ryan Metzger.
ZIKI is short for "Tzatziki," Greek cuisine's most iconic flavor
ZIKI is a fast-casual restaurant serving Greek & Mexican fusion. Signature bowls, zurritos, salads, sides, drinks, and desserts. The brand's hot pink color illuminates from a distance and is impossible to miss. Food is prepared fresh daily. Veggies, dairy, and meats are sourced locally.
The Zurrito, Greek Fries, Falafel Bowl, Gyro Bowl, Pork Bowl, Quezzadilla
Head of Quality Control, Chef Mo, outlines the system and philosophy: “Proper food sourcing, agricultural partnerships, and quality control systems are imperative to our kitchen operations. The food must always look good, and make people feel good as well.
Nanakos says that it’s as much about the heart as it is the head. “Food is a passion business. Embracing our chefs by creating the best possible environment for them determines the outcome of the food. Our chefs are the backbone to our business. When they are happy, they thrive.”
Get ready, Austin—you're about to turn pink
With the boost from Gigafund, ZIKI's goal is to quickly have the largest restaurant presence in all of Austin, before expanding to other cities.
"Austin's love of food, culture, and tech are what add to its vibrancy," says ZIKI’s Head of Marketing, Kat Vasylyshyn. "We're painting the city pink."
ZIKI is a member of the largest commercial kitchen in Texas. This serves as their central point of logistics for local restaurant operations. Food inventory arrives here from suppliers. It's prepared on-site, ensuring the highest quality, with an added level of safety and control.
A fleet of Sprinter vans brings the food to modular kitchens for final prep.
ZIKI's systems identify areas with the highest order volume densities and target those areas for placement of new kitchens.
Getting big fast: Why ZIKI is the Tesla of restaurants
CEO Nick Nanakos is not afraid to state his bold plan: "Our vision is to become the fastest-growing restaurant company on the planet, with unstoppable unit economics."
That doesn't just happen on its own. ZIKI's Chief of Staff, Anthony D'Apolito III, says the Gigafund backing is the green light for a fast start: "We've spent an enormous amount of time building systems prior to our funding, which has positioned us well for scale, and that's showing now in how quickly we're moving."
ZIKI believes that a restaurant should control its own expansion destiny. This is why they're vertically-integrated, manufacturing modular restaurants in the company's Texas factory.
Cutting-edge developments in manufacturing, technology, real estate, and hiring complete the picture.
ZIKI is a company led by a driven, visionary founder that's ready to conquer the world, starting by making you happy with their Greek/Mexican fusion fare, right here in Austin.