Austin one step closer to creating innovation zone

City sends team to Atlanta to get some ideas.

Austin Innovation Zone would combine science, education and art
Austin Innovation Zone would combine science, education and art (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s blueprint for an innovation zone is years in the making, but now one step closer to reality. Other bigger cities like Boston, Chicago and Atlanta already have major innovation districts.

The project is a residential and business zone that combines science, education and art. On Thursday, organizers are headed to Atlanta to get more ideas on how to launch it.

Imagine a state-of-the-art hospital and medical school surrounded by apartments, office buildings, interesting shops, restaurants and cultural events. The innovation zone will sit within Martin Luther King Boulevard to Interstate 35 on the east side. The zone would stop at Cesar Chavez and Trinity to the west.

Austin Innovation Zone would combine science, education and art
Austin Innovation Zone would combine science, education and art (KXAN Photo)

Part of UMC Brackenridge will be torn down later this year to make way for at least 14 acres of undeveloped prime real estate. City leaders and Senator Kirk Watson have teamed up for the last five years to design and develop this innovation zone. Now, organizers are going on a two-day exploratory trip to Atlanta to learn a thing or two about their booming Tech zone.

Institutions like the new Dell Medical school and the Dell-Seton Medical Center, which opens later this year, will be anchors for the innovation district. The city says they’re magnets for students and workers with talent.

Some of the main questions representatives want to know: how to launch an innovation zone and how to get potential businesses and residents on board.

“One of the big challenges is how do you plan this in a cohesive, collaborate way. And, Atlanta did a very good job bringing all of the different stakeholder groups together to have a single vision,” said Downtown Austin Alliance CEO Dewitt Peart. “How do we really effectively plan this?”

This week, the mayor said that the innovation zone is on his top list of projects he wants to work on this year. The team that’s going to Atlanta says they have a plan to talk to city leaders within the next three to four months.

“The red river cultural district is an amenity is that makes all the sense in the world, to have closely tied to an innovation district. The Waller Creek Conservatory and the open space and how you use that as a spine for people who want to be in the innovation district,” said Peart.

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