$19 million Sixth St. facelift proposed

$19 million Sixth St. facelift proposed

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We know it as "dirty" 6th, but some city leaders no longer want 6th Street to have that reputation.

That's why a reconstruction of East 6th Street is being discussed, possibly giving it the facelift it needs to improve appearance and functionality.

Within the next five years is when you could see the transformation.

One idea is to have three lanes; one that could be used to help reduce traffic in the morning and then be converted into parking later on in the day.

Sixth Street is a historic district that attracts visitors from across the world. Over the years, the segment of Congress Avenue to I-35 has begun drowning in problems. Problems that business owners say should have been addressed a long time ago.

"The sidewalks are in disrepair. There were some renovations that were done to the sidewalks in the 80's that haven't stood the test of time. In general, it needs a facelift and it needs something that's clever. To think about 6th street as a very complex street where it has festivals, has big events, has street closures, has south-by-southwest but also has day-to-day businesses," said Tim League, Alamo Drafthouse, founder.

League is in support of the festival street concept that aims to improve the drainage infrastructure and streetscape.

"It's all about curb appeal and building a street that looks better, that provides 18 foot wide sidewalks to where you can have things like sidewalk cafes and you can have events where you don't have to close the street because there is more room on the sidewalks," said Howard Lazarus, Director of Public Works,.

All along 6th Street there are cracks and pot holes because of failing pavement. It's between San Jacinto all the way to Neches Street that received an F-rating.

The estimated $19 million project would make sure the infrastructure is up to date and could withstand decades to come. It's an incentive for those looking to buy a property downtown.

"It's really hard to convince someone to come in and make an investment when they can't tie into a sewer line, or the water line is not big enough or there's not enough electrical capacity. So those things are critical," Downtown Austin Alliance Associate Director Molly Alexander said.

Not everyone is behind the idea. Owner of Lucky Lizard and the Museum of the Weird, Veronica Busti is concerned that the length of construction could cause some retails stores to go out of business.

"We're not getting customers to come in, then what? A bar opens? I think we're striving to work toward making 6th street a more family friendly, all day, 24-hour use, entertainment district and if we lose those retail businesses or places where family can come and it's only bars, then that's where I think we would be going backward instead of forward," Busti said.

That's why construction plans would start one-half of a block at a time, hoping to impact businesses as minimally as possible. There's also an alternative design proposal that would retain the 10-foot wide sidewalks, keep traffic to two lanes and would add head-in angle parking.

Making a final decision on a plan could take six to 12 months but they will get started on the sub-surface and drainage work very soon.

They have $1 million available so far.

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