Downtown Austin

DEWITT PEART President/CEO Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA)

Posted by on Tuesday, August 20th, 2019 in Blog

Reported by Brad Wiewel

President Bill called the meeting to order. Jon Yates led the pledge to the United States flag and Past President Sherry Workman gave our invocation of the day. Nick Hesselsweet greeted each member and guest as they arrived and Carl Noble introduced our guests and visitors.

Paul Harris Award








Past President and Past ARCF Chair Meade Bauer presented a special Paul Harris Fellowship (PHF) Award to Past President Dick Brown (PHF +2) in recognition and extreme gratitude for the many pro-bono hours he spent securing an inheritance to RCA from the Wendlandt Trust!

General Announcements:

Sharon Francia announced our next wine tasting party she’s hosting featuring screw-top wines! She promoted it with flair and fervor! Please join us on Friday, September 13 starting at 6:30 for good wine, food and great fellowship! RSVP Here

During Jackie Sinex’s Membership Minute she shared details about her career at WEBii, and its mission of web hosting, designing and SEO – pretty cool stuff!

President Bill’s announcements included reminding us about the limited-time donation matching program sponsored by the District for one-time contributions made to Rotary International’s Annual Fund/SHARE account; and he told us that Past President Julie Benkoski was currently in ICU at St. David’s Hospital South on Ben White Boulevard.

After several minutes of Fellowship time, the imminent Michael Portman introduced our speaker,Dewitt Peart, the CEO of the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA). Dewitt described the DAA’s vision of downtown Austin and how it works hard to maintain and expand the downtown business and entertainment options.

AustinHe discussed the creation of an “Innovation District” and blending the medical school into the culture. Dewitt also stated that: There are currently 60 million square feet of occupied space and he thinks that 63 million more can be added with careful planning; and more than 14,000 people now live in the downtown area which absolutely makes it the highest per capita/per acre of anywhere in Austin.

He fielded many questions about homelessness and addressed those concerns honestly. He reported that downtown Austin’s property crime rates are down but violent crime is up; and amazingly, 30% of the cars driving downtown at any given time are just people trying to find parking places!

Next week our originally planned speaker, Mike Heilgenstein from the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority had to reschedule so our program will be a surprise. President Bill thanked Mark Johnson (IBC Bank)  and Michael Abelson (The Abelson Group)for supporting our newsletter, and we stood to close the meeting with Caroline Valentine leading us in saying the Four Way Test.

More About Our Speaker:


President/CEO Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA)

Dewitt Peart became the President and CEO of the Downtown Austin Alliance in February 2015. The Downtown Alliance is engaged in dozens of projects and issues that contribute to the quality development, mobility, safety, cleanliness, and attractiveness of downtown Austin for investors, businesses, employees, residents, and visitors.

He guides the Downtown Alliance’s vision and strategy, ensures the organization’s fiscal health, and represents a board of directors consisting of 48 private and public sector leaders focused on preserving and enhancing the value and vitality of downtown Austin.

Prior to taking the helm at the Downtown Alliance, Peart served as executive vice president for economic development and public affairs at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, and president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce.

In his economic development role, Peart led efforts to secure more than 250 economic development deals. His organization was named seven times as one of the top ten U.S. economic development organizations bySite Selection magazine. Similarly, the organization was internationally recognized for having the “best foreign direct investment strategy” by a publication of the Financial Times.

Peart’s decade of advocacy experience covers legislative and regulatory improvements at the local, state, and federal levels. He achieved success in environmental, transportation, economic development financing, and military base closure legislative action.

From 1988 to 2002, Peart worked at various real estate development companies where he provided oversight for phases of large-scale development projects including land-use planning, master planning, asset management, construction, property management, marketing, and leasing. His development of nearly seven million square feet of industrial buildings and expertise in brownfield and urban redevelopment distinguish Peart’s career in real estate, which spans more than two decades.

Peart was named to the NAIOP Pittsburgh Hall of Fame in 2011. He held numerous leadership positions in non-profit organizations during his career in Pittsburgh including Junior Achievement, the Red Cross, the Workforce Investment Board, and the Military Affairs Council.

Peart is currently an Executive Fellow-at-Large of the Center for Economic Development for the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University and a member of Robert Morris University’s CEO Club. He serves on the board of Preservation Austin and is also a member of the NAIOP Urban Redevelopment Forum, the International Downtown Association, the Urban Land Institute, and Vistage Worldwide.

A native of Pittsburgh, Peart has a master’s degree in public administration from Carnegie Mellon University and a bachelor’s degree in business administration in accounting from Robert Morris University. He is married and has two adult sons.

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