February 10, 2020
I’m a member of the First Baptist Church of Austin. It’s an inviting, inclusive, open, loving place that’s willing to work for positive change. And I like the fellow that preaches there, Griff Martin.
I also like that it’s in downtown. It’s at 9th and Trinity. The church celebrated 50 years of being at that location yesterday. I was honored to put on my Sunday best and do a little preaching from the pulpit about the history of being at that place and my thoughts on what history would say about our church 50 years from now.
So, I told about how Edwin Waller was assigned by Texas’ President Mirabeau B. Lamar to design the Capital City that was to be Austin. Waller, who ended up being Austin’s first mayor (and therefore the last one to get to write a land development code without public input), did the job and created four “Public Squares” in what is now downtown. We know three of those spots as Brush, Republic and Wooldridge Squares. The fourth is where First Austin stands.
Waller was looking for the new Capital to have some specific places for people, the community, to gather and be together. I’m proud that for the past 50 years, and the next 50 years, First Austin and the people of that place will write a history of working for empowerment of all, healing those who need our help and loving all, including those excluded by others.
Around the Corner
The first time I heard Gary P. Nunn and Eliza Gilkyson sing was at the small Symphony Square amphitheater way back in the early 80’s. I saw a young Turk Pipken perform there. When we first moved here, we listened to live music at Symphony Square almost every week. It was a great place to feel the heartbeat of Austin. I’ve long wished for Austin to have a large public amphitheater for live music to bring us all together.
So I’m really excited about the Moody Amphitheater at Waterloo Park. It feels like forever ago since construction started on the Waller Creek Tunnel and the intake facility, but I’ve been impressed with the speed at which the park is transforming under Waterloo Greenway’s guidance. This area is becoming a very special part of downtown.
Up the Hill
Just to the north of the Capitol, another transformation is underway. You’ve read here before about the Capitol Complex Master Plan that envisions a Texas Mall akin to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. with four blocks of public open space in place of Congress Avenue between 15th and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Well, dirt is flying and occasionally nearby desks are vibrating, as the massive project moves forward. Across from the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, the George H.W. Bush building is already above ground, sitting on 5 levels of below-ground parking that will connect to an equally deep garage under the new Texas Mall. A few blocks down, the second building is under construction and in a couple of years we’ll see progress on the two Phase II buildings approved by the Legislature last year. The first phase will be completed in 2022 and the second phase in 2025.
We’d planned an office tour of the whole project last week, but the close-to-winter weather forced a cancellation so I don’t have any hard-hat photos to share. But you can see the progress yourself here.
Making Great Things Happen
Sandy Hentges Guzman, who has served as my legislative director for the past 11 years, is moving on. I’m grateful for all that she has done to help me serve this community and couldn’t be more proud to see her take on this new challenge as executive director of the Austin Area Research Organization.
I’ve asked Sandy over and over again to make big ideas a reality. She has been with me every step of the way as we’ve worked to improve transportation throughout the region. And she has been my point person for everything related to my 10 Goals in 10 Years, including the Dell Medical School, and our ongoing work to redesign the entire brain health continuum of care and the Austin State Hospital.
Sandy will continue working on making great things happen for our region, and we’ll benefit from her enormous talents. She’s a valuable community resource. She has my deepest thanks for all she’s done as a leader on my team and in my efforts. And for her friendship.