On Saturday, January 21st, ACT and the quality-of-life-plan task forces hosted the Austin Forward. Together. (AFT) Community Summit at By The Hand Club For Kids. The Austin residents, community stakeholders, ACT members, and local organizations carrying out the AFT quality-of-life plan were able to provide an overview of progress to date and an outlook on what is to come.

More than 300 guests enjoyed a performance by The Happiness Club, heard from community leaders about community development projects, and learned more about the plan in-depth. This year’s Summit helped to inspire more residents and stakeholders to become part of the AFT work as it begins its fifth year of implementation.

ACT Executive Director Darnell Shields hosted a panel of guests who shared updates on the significant progress of community development projects: the Aspire Center for Workforce Innovation; Build The Future Youth and Community Hub; North Austin Community Center; and Laramie State Bank Redevelopment. These projects, which have garnered over $100 million dollars in total investment, are the direct result of community-led action in improving the quality of life for all who live in Austin.

The Aspire Center for Workforce Innovation is an effort to repurpose a closed school at Madison and Central Avenues into an anchor for commercial revitalization and a destination for top-notch workforce training. The site will have already been activated with a POPfit area that has year-round outdoor workout equipment and a field that will transform into an ice rink in the winter.

Build The Future is a welcoming and supportive safe space that will dramatically expand the organization’s services and capacity and allow them to open more widely to the community. The transformed campus will stand for growth, opportunity, joy, and every child’s right to grow up and achieve their potential. The site had its ribbon-cutting ceremony on February 25th.

The North Austin Community Center serves 400 Austin kids from kindergarten through twelfth grade. The innovative space is a 150,000-square-foot professional-level sports, education, and wellness facility on a 10-acre campus. It provides the same opportunity for growth, impact, and sustainability as their other sites offer. It held its grand opening ceremony on February 2nd. 

The Laramie State Bank Redevelopment Project will revive the now vacant yet prominently known site at Chicago and Laramie Avenues and transform it into a hub with a variety of commercial and residential amenities. As an Austin landmark, this project will preserve history and fuel the growth to come in the community.

Following the panel, Summit attendees had the unique opportunity to directly engage with the community leaders of the seven AFT issue areas in breakout sessions. The issue areas are Community Narrative, Education, Housing, Youth Empowerment, Economic Development, Public Safety, and Civic Engagement. During these sessions, attendees learned in great detail about their selected issue area and discussed various ways to get involved in the plan.

“I am so grateful to be a part of the family in Austin. In our community, we continue to come together despite our age, ethnic differences, religious preferences, and affiliations to make Austin better,” said a Summit attendee.

The time is now to create real and lasting change. Not only are we seeing more investment in revitalizing the physical environment in Austin, but also in opportunities that specifically lend to the advancement of its people.

It will be up to the community and AFT leaders to make sure that these large-scale development projects continue living up to the vision and actions laid out in the plan.

Gatherings like the Austin Community Summit have been instrumental in the plan’s progress because it creates more awareness for an effort that will take the entire community to execute. If you or anyone you know would like to get involved in the Austin Forward. Together. (AFT) quality-of-life plan, please contact AFT Lead Organizer Ethan Ramsay at eramsay@austincomingtogether.org