The Battle Over Rainey

The space at 64 Rainey Street may only be a small dirt parking lot, but two of the City of Austin’s boards are in dispute over the site because of its location in the popular downtown district.

The Parks and Recreation Board on October 28 discussed turning lot into the site of The Rainey Street Historic Center, but the Mexican American Cultural Center Board seeks approval to designate it as parkland.

Parks Planning Committee Representative Ricardo Soliz said The MACC Board is looking at two other locations but prefer 64 Rainey Street as it is the only site physically on Rainey Street. “It’s the best place to display the history behind a street that has transformed into a vibrant and vital part of our community,” Soliz said.

The MACC board fears that it will take too much time for the construction of the historic center because of limited funds.

“The construction will be an eyesore in front of the MACC while there are several locations that could be used allowing us to transform the land for our own purposes,” MACC Board President David Carroll said.

Carroll said “exact plans for the future of 64 Rainey Street are still up in the air” but seeks approval by the city as parkland because it associates better with the MACC because of its center, which abuts 64 Rainey Street.

KVUE reported that a developer offered the city more than $1 million for 64 Rainey Street a few years back to improve the area. These improvements included parking solutions for residents but the deal fell through.

Michelle Thomas, a Rainey Street resident, said she likes the idea of preserving the street’s history. “It’s an absolutely wonderful idea to preserve a little bit of history here on Rainey,” Thomas said. “It used to be a neighborhood full of a unique group of people, and just because over the last few years it’s been invaded by condos, it has still held onto its culture.”

Not all those on Rainey share Thomas’ perspective. Many people who work at local bars on Rainey Street said that they wish to see the property serve a more logical purpose. “The street is growing so quickly that basic resources have become very limited recently,” said Rainey Street Craft Pride Bar Assistant General Manager Tre Miner. “It’s so hard to find parking in the area; the only option is to park in paid parking at condominium buildings, and it’s very expensive. Honestly, I come to work not knowing if I’ll be able to find a parking spot that day. We need parking garages over another tourist spot.”

His coworker Anders Dowd agreed. “It’s a waste of money! What’s the interest about one street that has only been here for about the last five years,” Dowd said. “The center would only demonstrate the area’s gentrification.”

With the community voicing its opinion, the Parks and Recreation Board extended discussion time to reassess.

“We have given our two cents about site challenges” said Parks and Recreation Board Director Sara Hensley. “Our biggest concern is that between insufficient funding for the historic center and the lack of concrete plans by the MACC, it is the board’s ruling that the matter must be postponed … to ensure an accurate recommendation.”

The Parks and Recreation board decided that it needed more time to consider the matter and reach the best decision for the city. They will meet again in 30 days to reconsider the matter.

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