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New business opens on South Congress while on the other side of the bridge a roadmap to recovery is initiated

Will Downtown Austin ever be the same? Downtown Austin Alliance talks about it.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Downtown Austin Alliance kicked off its "Roadmap to Recovery" plan to bring businesses back to life. 

On one side of South Congress Avenue, Little Brother Coffee and Kolache shop is serving you in a safer way, through a walk-up window. 

"The weekdays are a little chill but on the weekends it's kind of intense," said the cofounder of Little Brother Coffee and Kolache. "It's a little bit more than I had bargained for."

Mathew Bolick opened the shop just under a week ago, so having heavy foot traffic is a good sign. But on the other side of the South Congress Bridge, live music venues and other businesses are still closing down. 

According to Downtown Austin Alliance, in August, foot traffic on Congress Avenue was down by over 40,000 people compared to August of 2019. 

"Thus far, the funding available and the funding distributed has not been sufficient to save the live music venues and to keep them to survive this pandemic," said Downtown Austin Alliance Vice President of Urban Design Michele VanHyfte.

While live music is part of the essence of Austin, so are the mom-and-pop shops and restaurants downtown forced to close or unable to reopen. We have heard this throughout the pandemic – it's the lack of tourists and employees working from the office due to COVID-19 who are hurting downtown businesses. 

Vanhyfte and Vice President of Planning Melissa Barry said their team at Downtown Austin Alliance created what they call "Roadmap To Recovery."

On Friday, they kicked off their first phase of the four-part plan. It includes discovery, visioning, mapping and action. 

"We have been monitoring and watching and analyzing what is actually happening downtown that is causing the businesses to have to close," said Vanhyfte. 

While they are still ironing out the plan, the goal is to build economic recovery and resilience for downtown. The plan ends in late 2021. The organization said data show it will be years before downtown is close to its pre-COVID-19 days. 

"All the indicators that we're looking at are telling us that we're not talking about a matter of months," said Barry. "We're talking about a matter of years."


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