Greetings from the Dawson Neighborhood! We are located in the 78704 zip in South Austin and are bounded by Oltorf on the north, Ben White on the south, South Congress on the east and South First on the west. This area is the home of the Dawson Neighborhood Association (DNA) and Planning Contact Team (DNPCT). We invite you to begin your visit to Dawson by reading what has become an annual December tradition from the DNPCT Chair, Peter Davis.
Gains and Losses 2015 by Peter Davis
Austin is booming! Everyone wants to live here and there are lots of jobs around. It continues to be the fastest growing US city with its festivals and outdoor lifestyle. Our neighborhood is accepting changes at all levels, with new people moving in to Dawson while some homeowners take the opportunity to sell up. Homeowners face ever increasing property taxes as the city spends more on infrastructure and land values go up. It is good to see young couples, some with babies, choosing Dawson as the place to be which says a lot for our neighborhood and our school. On the flip side rental property is on the increase and the rise of short term rentals for party weekends is giving some of our neighbors discomfort from the noise as are outdoor music events.
New houses going up with six months of construction are also noisy discomfort as well as startling for their size. On the flip side each new built house is required to pay a fee for sidewalk and the city is finally responding to the Neighborhood Plan for walking routes. After the North/south additions at Wilson and Euclid, we have more progress on Cumberland and Alpine is under construction, thanks to our Association volunteers, Cynthia Medlin and Marty Harris. Residential Parking Permit streets have been established on El Paso and Post Road to alleviate parking issues. Corinne Sumpter-Gonzalez and Chad Cosper were the champions of these. Board member from Abundant Life Church, Sostenes Palomo, has arranged for access along the creek as the start of a path from Cumberland to Gillis Park as well as providing a space and poop bags for dogs.
Our creek took a battering recently with water topping streets at Cumberland and Oltorf the worst. Cumberland is a poor bridge made of concrete drains that obstruct creek flow and should be replaced. The city did finish the task to restore some collapsed creek banks and back yard loss. Kam Magor was instrumental in working with the city to expand the project and protect other degraded banks in that area. Our first Creek Clean-up was in 1994. David Haun was instrumental in that effort, and current board member Marisa Fushille continued the tradition for the 21st year. Julie Woods organized this year’s Its My Park Day, enlisting volunteers from Mollie Dawson School.
Businesses gains and losses. We welcome to LuLu B’s Vietnamese on Congress. We did lose our Chinese food at 2410 Congress, but it will be replaced by a 3 story boutique hotel. We have welcomed the hotel owner’s reassuring presentations at Neighborhood meetings. Sadly, Amy’s ice cream and Nia Space have moved out of S. Congress and that theme is happening more because of rent increases. Nia space was owned and operated by our neighbor Donna Starnes, so we wish her well in her new ventures. Non-profit Habitat Restore has chosen Dawson for its home and will be a resource for our house repair and a place to offer our volunteer time. Habitat hosting our meeting speaks for itself.
Next door to Crow Bar, a new urban apartment building is going up that typifies the “density” goal of the city and will comply with Downtown standards (built up to the landscaped sidewalk with reduced parking and a fee for water quality control).
We have dramatic changes going on at Pickle Road. This has been a long time source of problems so the change in use is good news. We invited the new businesses to our meetings and they have responded well to concerns. So far, we welcome Infinite Monkey Theorum Winery, Crux Climbing Center and Buzzmill Coffee. DNPCT board members, including Donna Knapp and Marty Harris, have had meetings with city staff to address issues with overall planning.
Critters – We now have a third vet’s office for our pets. Thrive on Oltorf who’s business philosophy is affordable by focusing on basic services. Many of you know we have our own flock of Guinea fowl. They roam the area from El Paso to Havana. Look out for them and drive slow. DNA has worked with City staff to provide us with 3 official traffic warning signs, as we have lost chicks and adults through at least one thoughtless driver. Let’s treat these birds as a special neighborhood feature and a unique asset. On El Paso, our red tail hawk family have got some attention completing another nesting season. Board member Julie Woods and Eliot Kimber were involved again in the annual Funky Chicken Coop Tour in April.
Steve Gee, owner of the Crow Bar, has been a good neighbor, even being Vice President, but unfortunately his business commitments forced him to resign in the summer, sorry to lose him. The biggest loss above all this year was the sad passing of President Myron Smith after a battle with cancer. She served the neighborhood for many years and served the whole city as a Commissioner on two boards and was honored by PODER as an individual who helped to keep the spirit of Cesar Chavez alive and continue the struggle for Justice. Myron brightened everyone’s life with her upbeat, vibrant and outgoing personality and her selfless attitude. She is sadly missed.
The Neighborhood Association website is dawsonneighborhoodassociation.org and you can follow us on Facebook. We are served by social media groups firstname.lastname@example.org and Nextdoor Dawson. These are operated as friendly online front doors to our neighborhood, but are no substitute for being out and about to meet face to face with our neighbors. Volunteers work in their spare time without personal gain, to help friends and neighbors and receive differing viewpoints. While they don’t expect to be rewarded, they are open to attacks and personal abuse, so we need to remember that we all neighbors of the Dawson community. So thanks to all our volunteers for DNA, DNPCT and our newsletter delivery team.
Changing Dawson (December 2014)
City of Austin Council and Mayor enter a new era this month with the change-over to district representation by 10 council members. Strangely our District #3 is being contested in a run-off between brother and sister. We can only hope that we will be better served by a winning council member who will be responding directly to the needs and concerns of the citizens of Dawson. Austin is rapidly growing and upset about change is inevitable, therefore it is important to look for the positive side of what is happening.
The demand for Dawson locations for new businesses and residences is increasing and the use of alternative transport is the goal of the city. We do have multiple bus routes here and bike lanes are appearing, although far from complete. Reduced parking requirements and the increased use in street parking puts stress onto residents’ safety, so as a relief, two Residential Parking Permit zones have been applied for in Dawson. These applications are processed by the city on a block by block basis. Sidewalks are still a priority for us and we have seen some progress in the routes identified in our Neighborhood Plan. We just need more as soon as possible.
Concern about the loss of affordable family homes is due to high priced houses and duplexes popping up around the neighborhood, with modest size homes (perhaps an Austin tradition) being demolished to make way for the large single family houses or modern duplexes. The city is currently looking at “the missing middle” as part of the CodeNext development that would potentially provide more affordable homes.
Through the impetus of the City Planning Department, the neighborhood voted in 2007 to accept Mixed Use Developments along the Congress and S. 1st corridors, with the goal that a quota of affordable residential units and retail would be included. The “Tree” apartment complex at Post Road now has the highly praised gastro pub “Porter”, but affordable units were passed over. Around the city, incentives for including affordable homes are not always picked up by developers. However, a project in the works is an apartment complex for the empty lot at 3110 S. Congress that is taking all the benefits it can to make the development viable by reducing parking area and providing affordable units at our approved 60% of Median Family Income and a retail unit. It is a very tight lot for what is proposed, so application issues are still to be resolved, as is common and completion time is extended.
Internationally renowned Habitat for Humanity’s mission is to build and repair homes for low income families. The organization has been on the east side of town for 20 years. Now a move to Dawson at the corner of South First and Hwy 71 in the former Chuck E. Cheese is in the works. There are permits and construction needed so opening late 2015 sounds like the earliest. Based on their current goals and operations, this addition to the neighborhood will be a resource for DIY home improvement as they accept materials donations. There are educational classes and volunteer opportunities at the Restore. The organization’s administration headquarters may be moving there too.
There are multiple buildings and properties with light industrial uses at 121 Pickle Road. Now redevelopment plans are moving along. An Urban Winery company based in Colorado is looking to move into one warehouse, while a rock-climbing gym will occupy the rest of the metal building. Ruta Maya was moving there but has moved attention to another Dawson location. Other properties on South Congress near Pickle Road have recently appeared on the market and their future may be something that will further change that section of our neighborhood.
A Year of Things to Be Thankful for in the Neighborhood (December 2013)
The plan for Multi-use properties and building density have made little progress in developments around the neighborhood, but this may be a relief. The neighborhood could be in a different situation if dense, tall buildings along Congress and South First were looming over adjacent small homes of a very slim neighborhood. Also the new developments completed have meant vacant properties are now functioning.
The “Tree” Multi-use development on S. First at Post Road has been completed with more than 300 rental apartments. Two massive trees were relocated as part of the work. So thanks for that and an end to the construction. We can look forward to a small amount of retail on S. First, hopefully providing amenities to the hood.
The $4million storm drainage renovation project for streets from Oltorf to Cumberland has also finally finished after two years of constant disruption to the area. Residents that complained of flooding have to be thankful for the changes. Gillis Park is getting back to normal also. The Havana/Dawson Elementary section of the storm drain improvements is in progress.
On Ben White, Chuck E Cheese’s has moved out, but with the adjacent 2 story Reliant Rehabilitation Hospital in operation (not a drug rehab facility) and the new one story MedSpring facility moved in next to P Terry’s, it could spur a replacement development. Thanks for the healthy changes.
The empty property at the northwest corner of Dunlap and S. Congress is now a used car lot, and they have been working with the city to resolve zoning and permit issues.
The warehouse property at 3804 S. Congress was tidied up in removing the dilapidated metal buildings but the 2 story masonry warehouse was converted to a one story building. We should be thankful that the Austin long-time business Binswanger Glass has moved in.
The Green Muse at 519 Oltorf didn’t survive after a fire and brief re-opening. Sorry to see it go. Winebelly restaurant has now moved in to offer tapas. Welcome them also.
A big thank you to Trinity Abundant Life Church and Pastor Mike for dedicating a piece of property on Cumberland to the neighborhood for a community garden. It appears to be well supported and filled up in a short time.
I know of 4 new homes constructed in the neighborhood, which are big two story volumes, but immediate neighbors should be thankful they are controlled by the so-called McMansion ordinance.
The Flats on Wilson at Cumberland are also complete and available for purchase and partially occupied. Although it would have been nice to have an official pedestrian route through to Gillis Park per the neighborhood plan and built as originally agreed with the neighborhood, we should be thankful that they are broken up into smaller blocks to be a better scale for the adjacent houses.
In the next year, with the better economy, we can expect new development proposals. We should be thankful if they are on S. Congress properties mainly (and a few on S. First) designated by our Neighborhood Plan for Mixed-Use and already zoned for higher density.