Southwest Austin News

Get Batty for This Austin Family Attraction!

Austin is home to the largest Mexican free-tail bat colony in North America, and Austinites love to celebrate those winged creatures. The colony lives underneath the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin. 

While the "peak season" is in late July early August, it is still considered "Bat Season" in Austin right now! "Bat Season" takes place every year from March to November as the bats emerge around sunset to feed on a variety of flying insects. You can call the "bat hotline" at (512)327-9721 to see when bats have been emerging downtown.  

Not sure where to spend your batty experience? We've got you covered! Here are a few of the most popular bat viewing locations downtown.

- Sit on the lawn / Stand on the bridge: The easiest thing to do is to pack a picnic and head down to the Statesman’s Bat Observation Center in the northwest corner of the parking lot at least an hour before dusk.

- Take a boat tour:  Lone Star Riverboat offers public sightseeing cruises which are about an hour in length and which cost $10 per adult and $5-$7 for kids. Departure times vary slightly, depending on what time of year it is, and you do need to arrive a bit in advance. The boats are also BYOB so feel free to bring some drinks along for the cruise. 

- Enjoy the view from afar: The north side of Lady Bird Lake has several hotels with restaurants, which have some of the best bat watching views. One casual dining option is ...

AISD's Proposed $1 Billion Bond Aims to Bring 21st-Century Learning Spaces To District

Austin ISD's proposed $1.05 billion bond aims to deliver 21st-century learning spaces to campuses across the district.

In preparation of the bond's approval, the board of trustees deliberated about a bond construction delivery plan in order to deliver the proposed bond projects in the most effective and efficient way. The Texas Local Government Code requires the board to consider a construction contract method other than the competitive bidding before advertising solicitations for proposals.

Delivery methods include:

  • Design-build—A single entity is responsible for both the design and construction of a facility. Design of discrete packages of work can be submitted for permitting individually, and construction starts early while the design is still ongoing, resulting in a shorter project delivery schedule.
  • The construction manager at risk, or CMR—An architect and a contractor are hired at the same time, well before the design is complete. The contractor provides preconstruction services, including cost estimating, constructability reviews and other valuable input during design. The contractor will provide a guaranteed maximum price, or GMP, for each bid package, of which there are likely to be several for each project. CMR is particularly relevant for projects with complex building and/or site conditions. The work is typically broken up into phases with the contractor providing a GMP for each phase.
  • Competitive sealed proposal—Price and other factors, such as qualifications and experience, are considered in determining the best value for the district.
  • Job order contract—A job order contracting firm or a cooperative firm is used to provide prices for specific tasks as...

Burn Ban Implemented in Travis Country post 4th of July Celebrations

Travis County announced the implementation of a burn ban with the release of a Press Release on July 6, 2017. The press release states “the Local Government Code allows the Travis County Commissioners Court to prohibit outdoor burning in the unincorporated areas of Travis County. The burn ban expires on August 7, 2017, unless further action is taken by the Travis County Commissioners Court or Fire Marshal prior to that date.”

 

Fire Marshal Tony Callaway said that the county has been on the cusp of a burn ban for the last few weeks but each week the county has received a little rain. About two-dozen grass fires were reported July 4, which is slightly lower than previous years, and about 25 percent of those were a result of fireworks.

 

“We have recently experienced an increase in grass fires in both our county and neighboring counties,” said Travis County Chief Fire Marshal Tony Callaway. “We strongly urge the public to help reduce fire dangers by not throwing cigarettes out of vehicle windows, not parking running or recently driven vehicles on dry grass or operating poorly maintained machinery on dry grass.”

 

If you have questions about the burn ban, contact the Fire Marshal’s Office at 512-854-4621, or contact your local fire department.

Sign up for burn ban status and alerts!

 

To read more about the burn ban, visit TravisCounty.gov 

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Southwest Austin Events: Weekly Update

There's always something interesting going on in Southwest Austin, and this week is no exception. Here are some updates/ events Southwest Austinites should know about going into this next week!

Austin Sound & Cinema - June 28, 2017

  • The four-show series showcases live bands paired with classic Hollywood movies at the Long Center. Doors and food trucks open at 6 p.m., with live music beginning at 7:30 p.m. and the movies beginning at 9 p.m. Free Admission 

Setting Goals for Small Business Excellence Seminar - June 29, 2017

  • Setting Goals for Small Business Excellence provides a hands-on, step-by-step instructions for establishing goals & strategies, defining core values. The purpose of this class is to provide business owners with exactly what they need to discover their most important goals and how to go about achieving them. Attendees must register here! (6/29/2017)

El Chilito - Grand Opening! June 30, 2017

  • El Chilito is an East Austin taquería boasting a delicious selection of Tex-Mex & interior Mexican tacos along with a full espresso bar, and a whole lot of local charm. The Grant Opening will include a pig roast on Friday, June 30th from 6-8pm. CLICK HERE to check out their menu!

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Hamilton Pool Reopens to Swimmers Today

Austin's famous Hamilton Pool reopens to the public today, May 1, after closing last year due to separate drowning incidents that occurred in the famous tourist spot in 2016. The natural pool located at 24300 Hamilton Pool Road in Dripping Springs was a favorite local attraction where Austinites can visit to beat the gruelling heat of summer until authorities decided to close down the park to determine how to best mitigate future drownings after two consecutive drownings occurred.

The Travis County Park Department reopened the pool with additional safety features offered to the visiting public. Loaner life jackets in varying sizes are offered at the pool entrance, and throw rings have been placed around the pool for easy access in case of an emergency. The effort was made to ensure that visitors planning to escape Austin's typical summer heat would be safe from any untoward incident while enjoying the natural water formation.

Authorities also reiterated that they may close the pool at certain times to check the water quality, especially if high bacteria counts are present. To make sure that you enjoy the day you set for your outing to the area, please make reservations ahead. The official website where you can check out the latest Hamilton Pool updates and make reservations can be accessed here.

Are you planning on taking a trip to Hamilton Pool? Do you think the safety features provided by the authorities are sufficient to keep tourists safe? Let us know your thoughts! Also, please feel free to share this article to your friends! Have a fun outing this upcoming summer season!

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Southwest Austin County Ranked Fifth Healthiest

County Health Rankings has released its ordered list of the healthiest counties in the state of Texas on March 29. Out of 243 total counties that reported data to County Health Rankings, Travis County ranked fifth. Here is how County Health Rankings got that number:

1. Residents of Travis County have access to high-quality clinical care and are ranked eighth throughout the state. The county has a ratio of 1,170 residents to 1 primary care physician. The ratio for dentists is 1,470-to-1 and the ratio for mental health providers is 450-to-1. About 84 percent of residents are monitored for diabetes and 62 percent receive mammography screening. Roughly 19 percent of residents are uninsured, which is below the state average.

2. According to County Health Rankings, Travis County residents have the 10th highest quality of life. About 15 percent of residents are in poor or fair health, compared to 19 percent throughout the state of Texas.

3. Travis County also ranks eighth among health behaviors of residents. Approximately 13 percent of adults smoke in comparison to 15 percent throughout Texas. In the county, 20 percent of residents are obese, in comparison to 28 percent throughout Texas and 26 percent among top performing U.S. counties. About 24 percent of residents exhibit excessive drinking habits, which...

What's Happening in Southwest Austin this Week

There's always something interesting going on at Southwest Austin, and this week is no exception! Here are some updates Southwest Austinites should know:

Improving Affordability in Austin

An action plan aiming to improve affordability in Austin has been announcened by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and its coalition partners in an effort to address issues on affordable house, easier permit processing, and easier access to healthcare.

As the city develops further into becoming one of the most sought-after metros for millennials and investors to live in, the influx has adversely affected the standard and cost of living in the city. The action plan aims to counteract the negative changes of the influx to help sustain the favorable living conditions in Austin.

Commuter Safety with Lower Speed Limits

Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, introduced a bill to lower speed limits on unmarked Texas roads to 25mph (from 30mph). The bill aims to lower the number of traffic fatalities throughout the state.

Teacher at Oak Hill Elementary School Aims for Rather Prize

Renae Hernandez, teacher at Oak Hill Elementary School, is vying for newsman Dan Rather's $10,000 Rather Prize, in an effort to found the literacy program called "Blast" for kindergarten through second-grade teachers. The winner will be announced at the education innovation conferences of South by Southwest Conferences and Festivals. Please support her cause by voting here.

New Car Vending Machine in Southwest Austin

Are we in Tokyo? The infamous car vending machine craze has arrived in Austin. The new car vending machine of Carvana at Southwest Austin is the third unit to be established in the U.S. Car buyers get to...

What's Happening in Southwest Austin: Weekly Update

There's always a lot of things going on in and around Southwest Austin! Here are some valuable pieces of info that Southwest Austinites need to know:

Now You Can Avoid Traffic at the I-35!

The Texas Department of Transportation recently launched an interactive map and website that provides details on upcoming lane closures, travel delays, and traffic incidents in the counties of Hays, Travis, and Williamson. All you need is a smartphone to check if the I-35 is incident-free or not congested with heavy traffic for you to plan your route for the day. The website can be accessed here.

More Time for Enjoyment for Jacob's Well Natural Area Visitors

The Hays County Commissioners Court voted to extend the open hours of Jacob's Well Natural Area in Wimberley. They have also voted to extend the swimming season from May 1 to October1, instead of the traditional season from Memorial Day until Labor Day. Good news for all locals and tourists!

Parking Laws to be Enforced at the Pennybacker Bridge

Austin's iconic Pennybacker Bridge will soon have more police presence as authorities strive to strictly enforce parking laws at the popular tourist destination. Known as a great venue for sightseeing and as a dropoff pointn for hikers, the Austin Police Department would like to ensure the safety of visitors who frequent the area.

New Southwest Austin Private School to Launch in Fall

A new private school will begin catering to 24 sixth-grade students starting this fall. The Synergy Middle School is located at The Art Garage, 11190 Circle Drive, Austin. For more details, you can check out the school's official website here.

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Southwest Austin Events for this Week: What You Need to Know

Looking for a fun-filled activity in Southwest Austin this week? We've got new store openings, seminars, and development projects lined up just for you! Here are some local events you might be interested in:

1. Income Tax Code Seminar- The Oak Hill Business and Professional Association is set to hold a luncheon on Thursday, February 2, to discuss updates and changes to the income tax code for the tax returns of 2016. The meeting will take place at Mandola's Italian Market, 4301 W. William Cannon Drive. A $15 will be charged to members and $20 for guests. For more details, you can access the organization's Facebook page here.

2. Welcome back, Lyft and Uber!- Statewide ride-hailing regulations may be the only thing standing between Austin and the return of Lyft and Uber on its streets this year. Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, explains that new regulations may reverse the vote Austinites too last May thet mandate fingerprint background checks for the services' drivers.

3. New Store!- Famous Valentina's Tex Mex will open a new store in Southwest Austin. The popular food trailer outlet located at 7612 Brodie Lane is a best-selling foodie spot for customers craving sandwiches, sides, and briskets. Stay tuned for more updates on when their store will open!

4. New 'The Salt Lick BBQ' Outlet- BBQ lovers, here's some good news for you! Salt Lick recently opened a food truck at the Moontower Saloon to cater to its loyal parishioners. This comes after Salt Lick's proven popularity while serving food...

What's Happening in Southwest Austin: This Week's Updates

Curious to know what's happening in Southwest Austin this week? Here are some local news and updates for you: 

New Coffee Shop at 5400 Brodie Lane

Good news, coffee and doughnut lovers! Bougie's Donuts & Coffee will open another store at 5400 Brodie Lane, Ste. 930. Known for its donut variety and interesting coffee flavors, owner Ryan Brown promises something new to watch out for at their new store.

Additional Pluckers Wing Bar Branch to Open

A new Pluckers Wing Bar branch is set to open its seventh store in Austin at the Oak Hill Plaza on Hwy. 71. Details about the new sports bar and wing restaurant will be released at a later date.

Proposed New Bella Fortuna District
A public hearing will be held on Tuesday (Jan. 24) to gain feedback from Southwest Austin residents regarding the proposed Bella Fortuna district that is proposed to be developed on the southeast of I-35 and Onion Creek Parkway. The project is set to develop 400 new single-family homes.
 
Women's March

The south lawn of the Texas State Capitol was filled with thousands of supporters of the Women's March, a demonstration of support for the rights and equality of women.

Latest A-F Accountability Report for School Districts in Texas

Two Texas school districts (out of 1,200) managed to receive straight A's under the Texas preliminary A-F accountability...

Travis County Acquires 1930's U.S. Courthouse to House New Probate Court

Travis County's bid to acquire the historic Austin Federal Courthouse at 200 W. Eighth St. has finally pushed through. The deed was accepted Thursday at the courthouse steps by County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and other elected officials.

Eckhardt expressed that, “we have been hoping and praying for this gift from Uncle Sam for a while.” 

The building was previously declared by the federal government as a surplus, so county officials moved to have the property transferred under local jurisdiction, especially when a bond referendum for a new civil and family courtx complex failed in 2015. The Commissioners Court approved the application to have the said property obtained from the National Park Service for use by Travis County. Travis County was not required to pay any amount for obtaining the said property.

With a $28 million renovation plan for the historic structure, locals are eyeing the property as the new house of probate courts. The Heman Marion Sweatt County Courthouse has been in need for additional space for district courts for quite some time.

Travis County currently only has one probate judge, but with the renovation plans completed for the historic building by 2020, they are expected to open two more probate courts, and by 2035, two more. Probate court deals with wills, declaration of heirs for deceased people who die without a will, establishment of guardianships, court-ordered involuntary mental health commitments, and domain cases.

Want to know more about this awesome Austin local news? You can access Kelli Weldon's Community Impact article from which this post was based by clicking here.

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Austin Police Department Releases Holiday Safety and Travel Tips for Locals and Tourists

With the surge of commuters expected for the holidays, the Austin Police Department has released certain guidelines on how to stay safe during the holiday rush:

Sky Travel

A report released by the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport indicates that peak travel can be expected on December 20-23, December 27-30 and January 2-4, with peak times from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m., 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Make sure to be at the airport 2 hours before your flight is scheduled to depart. Complimentary Wi-Fi has also been made available to travelers who can connect to a Boingo Hotspot to track security check times, schedules, etc.

Travel by Car

A significant percentage of accidents that occur during the holidays are caused by drunk driving. To curb this, the Austin Police Department has extended the implementation of the Driving While Intoxicated Enforcement Initiative until January 1, 2017. The message is clear: Don't Drink and Drive.

Home Security

If you are leaving home to enjoy the holidays elsewhere, the APD suggests that you follow these tips:

  • Always lock doors and windows when leaving the house, even just for quick errands
  • Before taking long trips, ask a neighbor or family member to watch over the house. A good way to thwart any burglary plans is to make the house appear occupied. Have a trusted individual pick up your newspapers and mail so it would appear that someone is home.
  • Use automatic timers to switch indoor and outdoor lights on/off.
  • A radio or television can be left on to make it sound/look like there's someone home.
  • Don't tempt burglars into entering your home by hiding valuables, expensive gadgets, and even large displays of holiday gifts from the view of doors and windows.
  • Instruct carriers to keep expected packages in the facility where you will come to personally pick the item(s) up when...

T.A. Brown Elementary School Shut Down Due to Structural Damage

Press Conference for T.A. Brown ClosureAn assessment conducted by Austin ISD officials revealed Friday that the crawlspaces of the T.A. Brown Elementary School building suffered extensive damages to its plaster wings, cafeteria, and administrative offices, leading the district to close down the school indefinitely. At a news conference conducted Friday, district officials explained that the assessment was part of the Facilities Master Plan and that they were in the process of examining the facilities of schools in the district to determine each unit's educational feasibility and structural conditions.

However, the scheduled inspection at T.A. Brown in mid-October led to the unpleasant find, and with reports finalized and submitted at the school district last week, officials have decided to close the school without any future plans to reopen. With the safety of the students and the teaching staff as top priority, members of the board have decided to halt all instruction at the school and make arrangements on how the students can continue their education in safer environments. Because of this, Brown’s 360 students will be relocated to two different sites based on grade level. Children in pre-K and kindergarten, as well as students in special units, will be placed at Reilly Elementary School, while students in grades one through five will be relocated to the Allan Elementary School campus, a facility currently used to house Child, Inc. Childcare Center as well as some of the district’s other partners.

For more details regarding the permanent closure of T.A. Brown Elementary school, you may access the article from which this post was based by clicking on this link.

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New Westcreek Drive Sidewalks Now Usable

Westcreek Drive Sidewalk mapThe addition of new sidewalks on Westcreek Drive near Patton Elementary School has finally been completed, thanks to the support and funding from the city of Austin Quarter Cent Fund. The work concluded in mid-August, but was only opened for use by the public on the first week of October 2016. A project of the city of Austin's Public Works Department, the project aims to add new and updated sidewalks and curb ramps on the east side of Westcreek Drive from the Patton campus to West Hwy. 290. 

Costing $96,000, the project began July 18 and was completed Aug. 16. 

For more information regarding construction projects and new developments in Southwest Austin, please check out out blog. You can also access the article from which this post was based by clicking here:

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5th Street May Soon Accommodate Two-Way Traffic

In an effort to reduce congestion in downtown Austin when Sixth Street is closed, the city is looking to convert one of its one-way streets into a two-way.

By spring, the city could add one westbound lane to the current eastbound-only Fifth Street between Brazos Street and I-35.

“We realized our traffic during special events when Sixth Street is closed is that we have severe congestion in this part of the corridor,” said Rob Spillar, director of the Austin Transportation Department, during Wednesday’s Austin City Council Mobility Committee meeting.

The proposed change came from an analysis the Austin Chamber of Commerce and Hilton Austin Hotel asked the city to conduct because of Capital Metro’s plans to build a permanent MetroRail station on Fourth Street and close through traffic to vehicles.

A pedestrian plaza would also be added, and Capital Metro plans to restrict traffic on Fourth between Red River and Trinity for pedestrian and bicycle use only. Traffic on Neches will end in a cul-de-sac at Fourth.

“We were really concerned about this closure,” said Lee Austin, central area engineer for ATD. “Sixth Street is a major westbound arterial, so when it’s closed, drivers don’t have anything in that area.”

The city’s analysis found that during times when Sixth Street was closed, drivers would use Fourth Street, and traffic would back up on the I-35 frontage road, blocking vehicles coming from Fifth to I-35, Austin said.

Traffic exiting the Hilton would turn left onto Red River and take a left onto Fifth for westbound access, she said.

Spillar said before the city even begins construction it would need to gather public input. The change could be implemented...

Boring Weekend Ahead? Join These Activities and Have Fun at Southwest Austin

Brodie Park CrossFitGot nothing to do this weekend? Head over to South Austin and take your pick from these exciting events that are guaranteed to help you pass the time enjoyably:

Bug Night Out (Oct.  7)- The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center offers a one-night-only bug-sightseeing tour in the gardens on Friday. The center’s mercury light stations turn on to attract nighttime insects. Flashlights are recommended for the family-friendly event.

6 p.m.-9...

Latest School Evaluations for Austin ISD

This article is a repost of Community Impact Newspaper's release of the latest results from the 2015-16 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR. The results are published according to campus and district. The following images display how students performed at their annual exams. Enrollment numbers and feeder school ptterns are also presented.

The following are accountability ratings received last August by districts and campuses for the Met Standard, Met Alternative Standard or Improvement required based on STAAR and end-of-course exam results from the 2015-16 school year and other indicators. However, due to computer errors in data from 14,220 students, the approximate number of 3 millions students are incomplete when the campus and district accountability results were computed. To know more about this new story, you can access the original article from which this post was based here.

accountability-aisd...

Google Fiber Plans Further Expansion in Southwest Austin

Google Fiber is planning to widen its reach in Southwest Austin by the end of 2016. In an official presentation at the Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods from Google representatives last August 10, the internet giant has opened service sign-ups for areas in zip codes 78735, 78736, 78737, 78739, 78745, 78746, 78748 and 78749.

Google Fiber offers internet service at up to 1 gigabit-per-second download and upload speeds as well as TV and phone service using fiber-optic lines underground.

Google has opened the service sign-ups for interested residents in the said areas last August, and will continue to accept applications until the 13th of October, 2016. Intrerested applicants are advised to log on to the Google Fiber website, enter their address, and check if the service is available/will be available to their home based on the service area map.

While sign-ups are accepted only until October, actual activation of the service is at the end of the year. The planned expansion into Oak Hill, Circle C Ranch, and nearby neighborhoods will come after the launch in the area of 78745 in South Austin last spring. For more information regarding this developing news, please click here.

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Apartment Complexes a Fast-Growing Business in Southwest Austin

Luxury apartments grow in Southwest AustinApartment complex developers are focused on opportunities in Southwest Austin as more and more out-of-state transplants flock the area. As a result, apartment complexes have recently opened up (or are soon to open), providing millennials and young families the option to enjoy luxury living in new residential complexes. Among these luxury apartment projects are Ocotillo and The Santal, and AMLI Covered Bridge.

The choice of Southwest Austin's location for the boom on apartment complexes isn't surprising; thanks to its proximity to downtown, the multitude of large employers in the area, the influx of migrants moving to Austin to pursue career growth, and the progress happening in its surrounding areas make Southwest Austin an obvious choice for apartment complex developers looking into the most lucrative locations for their new projects. The infographic on the right summarizes how the appetite for apartments in Southwest Austin have evolved over the years.

While rentals are a temporary thing, they play a crucial role in developing the real estate market of Southwest Austin. Career beginners and millennials may only afford to rent apartmens as they start out, but the opportunity to live in Southwest Austin while building their careers enables them to eventually acquire real estate in the area....

Holiday Changes for 2016-2017 Austin ISD School Year Calendar

Austin ISD School Calendar 2016-2017Changes were made to the school calendar of the Austin ISD in a December meeting of its board of trustees for school year 2016-2017. Since classes start on August 22, here's a list of recently-approved changes parents should be aware of:

1. Students and faculty are provided a full week off for the Thanksgiving holiday on November 21-25. (In contrast with last year's Nov. 25-27 break).

2. Staff will have nine winter break days instead of ten, from December 21, 2016 to January 2, 2017. AISD students will have ten winter break days, from December 21, 2016 to January 3, 2017.

3. The first day of classes is August 22.

4. Scheduled staff development days are: January 3, 2017, April 14, 2017, and May 26, 2017.

5. The last day of classess for students is June 1, 2017.

6. The last teacher workday is June 2, 2017.

7. Bad weather makeup days are scheduled for February 20, 2017 (President's Day) and May 26, 2017.

For more info on AISD events or for a complete pdf copy of the 2016-2017 school year calendar, please click on this link.

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