AUSTIN, Texas - Downtown Austin may be looking a little busier these days, but it is still not at pre-pandemic levels.
"Downtown is still feeling the impacts of COVID-19 and while different aspects of downtown are performing better than others, we know the future is promising," said Janell Moffett, director of research and analysis at the Downtown Austin Alliance.
The downward spiral began in March 2020.
"COVID- 19 has taken a tremendous toll on our personal lives, our community, and economy," said Dewitt Peart, president and CEO of Downtown Austin Alliance.
"The cancelation of SXSW in 2020 resulted in $34 million in lost hotel revenue, that's one measure alone," said Moffett. "As residents mainly stay in place, downtown businesses did not have the same level of foot traffic to maintain 2019 levels. so essentially residents were the only ones in downtown to hold it down."
Wednesday the Downtown Austin Alliance painted a picture of what COVID-19 did to the city's center. Austin as we knew it, the live music, the shops, bars, restaurants, and theaters, were all closed for months, some longer. Employers also sent employees home to work remotely.
"Compared to 2019 downtown office visits dropped by almost 90 percent in April. We've seen an uptick in employees returning to work spaces in downtown, however we are still well below pre-pandemic levels," said Moffett.
However, all hope is not lost. "As the weather changes, and more people are vaccinated we expect these numbers to continue to shift in a positive direction," she said.
Moffett noted that more storefronts are returning to full operations. Now the DAA has four priorities: to promote downtown again, address unsheltered homelessness, bring people back to park spaces, and promote the soul of Austin, which are small downtown businesses.
"We want to inspire locals to explore, shop, eat and rediscover downtown," said Molly Alexander, executive director of the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation