Back in September, DANA announced the return of its annual Urban Vision awards and called for nominations in three award categories that exemplified the best (or worst) models for Downtown's Future. Past winners of these awards included Whole Foods and 360 Condominiums (Urban Light) and the Intel Shell and the Downtown Post Office (Urban Blight). This year we are also pleased to introduce an award for individual service to DANA and Downtown in honor of the late David Weaver.
Urban Light Award (What aspect of downtown points towards a brighter future?): City Hall
A very difficult decision on the part of our awards committee with so much positive recent development in downtown. In looking into the near future, though, the largest and most imminent impact on downtown will come from the public sector on every level (The New Federal Courthouse, Capitol Complex Redevelopment, Travis County Central Campus Plan, Austin Central Library, etc…). City Hall, which turns six this year, stood out as the leading example of urban design – from an aesthetic, functional and sustainability perspective. With ground level retail, shared underground parking and active programming, City Hall has continued to engage the urban environment and offers a model for other public buildings in downtown's future.
Urban Blight Award (What aspect of downtown, a recent project or a long lingering issue is representative of what we hope to avoid in Austin's Urban Center?): Parking Lot at 5th & Colorado
DANA has had a strong and consistent position against the blight of surface parking lots in downtown and, as such, choosing the winner of this year's Urban Blight Award required little deliberation. 5th & Colorado was recently presented as the future location of a "ONE" green hotel. While offering some suggestions for improvements, ultimately there was much to like about the project, including the assurance that the existing warehouse structure would not be demolished until construction was ready to move forward. DANA wrote a letter in support of that project and if it had been built, the development team would not be receiving this award. Instead, and in contrast to some projects that legitimately were caught in the economic cycle, downtown received blight instead of a hotel focused on sustainability.
DANA is deeply disappointed by this 'development' and will be looking in the weeks and months ahead to address the gaps in current public policy that allow or encourage behavior that results in lasting blight downtown.
David Weaver Memorial Award for Individual Service (Who is selflessly making a difference for DANA and Downtown?): Madge Whistler
An overwhelming response was received for the nomination of long time Avenue Lofts resident, Madge Whistler. Since January, Madge has been doing exemplary work, involving other downtown residents, the Austin Police Department and the District Attorney's office, to take back the streets from crime and rampant drug dealing.
Madge has been coordinating an effort with her fellow residents that is helping APD by providing them with photographs and video of the drug dealers. This helps APD identify and arrest the offenders, and, once they are apprehended, the photos and video are being used to support prosecution.
Thank you so much Madge for all of your work to make Downtown a better place to live, work and play!