The U.S. Census Bureau determined that Austin was the second-fastest growing U.S. city from 2010-2015 and judging from the construction cranes dotting the city skyline, change is the new norm in the city’s downtown core. The Downtown Austin Alliance is made up of downtown property owners, individuals and businesses devoted to preserving and enhancing the value and vitality of the area.
Among many other projects, programs and services, the Alliance took on a project in 2016 to gather and preserve stories about its three historical squares: Brush, Republic and Wooldridge. To reach as diverse a population as possible, new tools were sought and the Engage.DowntownAustinAlliance.com site was born.
Staff seeded public conversations by sharing storylines about the historical parks and how those stories tie directly to the current reputation and experience of Austin—a city that values the connection of people and place, promotes creativity and innovation, and that celebrates diversity. While use and numbers continue to grow on the new site, the quality of sharing from the community reflected the daily experience seen in the city’s parks where activity is commonplace.
Now, the Downtown Austin Alliance is employing the suite of online tools to gather community input regarding the city’s future. The goal is to create a sense of community cohesion while building relationships and sharing information. The site has been used to promote in-person events and to gather input through the Places tool, providing interactive mapping opportunities for the public to share ideas for the future of the city’s core.
Using EngagementHQ to create a shared vision: Community Table
Jenell Moffett, Director of Research and Analysis at the Downtown Austin Alliance, describes the community table project:
“The Community Table was a really cool concept. This project was led by our VP of Planning with consultative partners Public City, which is a culture based community engagement firm. They came up with a concept of asking the community to write down their visions for downtown on a block of wood. Almost 200 boards were collected. From these boards, 2 large tables were created to make a public art piece which is currently located at a recently renovated Republic Square that was featured in the Our Austin Story project. It is more of a tangible representation of what the broad community wants for downtown.”
The community table was created and installed in Republic Square, effectively linking the past with the future, and completion was celebrated with a meal around the table. All details were shared through the site and photos and comments online allowed those who could not attend to still be a part of the event.
The Alliance continues its work toward a vision and action plan. Already they have seen daily spikes around 500 visits with the launch of the visioning project. Marketing of the site, sharing of information and using the engagement tools will continue to play key roles in the Alliance’s comprehensive community engagement plan. We are excited to see what is next—both in the city’s downtown core as well as on the site.
To hear more about this effort by the Downtown Austin Alliance, listen to Bang the Table’s podcast, Episode 4.