Rep. Howard and Sen. Kirk Watson recently co-wrote an op-ed, published by the Texas Tribune, in which they voice their support for the transformation of a section of Congress Avenue – the four blocks between 15th Street and MLK Boulevard – into a pedestrian mall.
The two lawmakers, who both served on a Joint Legislative Committee to oversee the development of the Capitol Complex Master Plan, illustrate the potential for the space:
the new Texas Mall is envisioned to be a distinct destination located in the heart of Austin and designed to host outdoor music performances, political rallies, the Texas Book Festival and other community events.
On the north end of the avenue, the plan calls for a public plaza to tie together the Blanton Museum of Art, the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and a yet-to-be-determined cultural venue (with a ground floor café) in the new office building at Congress Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard. Outside, the plaza includes a small amphitheater and pavilion for live performances.
They also address the need for the City of Austin to partner with the State in this venture, and the benefit in doing so:
As a practical matter, it doesn’t cost the city anything. No money needs to be spent for this great new urban green space and needed parking. This isn’t land the city will ever monetize either by developing it or selling it — the city isn't going to build a building on Congress Avenue or, for that matter, sell the street. This is a reasonable request by the state given the public amenities that we'll all be able to enjoy.
You can read the full piece at the TribTalk website.
Rep. Howard further discussed the matter in this KXAN interview, where she also talked about the State's efforts to fund relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
And one last side note: in the recent Legislative Session, Rep. Howard passed a bill in anticipation of the new Capitol Pedestrian Mall. HB 635, which went into effect on September 1, will enable the issuance of temporary vendor permits for authorized events on the new space.