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World Class City

Wednesday, 31 May, 2006

According to Resolution 20051215-056 the definition of “Downtown Austin” for development purposes is the colored section in the above linked map. I become morose while thinking of the implications. Part of the deal is to create housing in the area, that is new construction, “in all price ranges”. Translated into standard English: A smattering of Section 8 housing built at taxpayer expense but owned entirely by associates of the city council, and more $200000 2BR condos with 20% occupancy.

Transit right-of-way is mentioned but retail isn’t. This means another food desert, but in an area where possessing an automobile is deliberately problematic. The former frat types are not going to walk the 2.5 miles to Congress and Oltorf, or wander the mile to Lake Austin and Expostion for very long. Whole Foods is a tourist attraction, not a grocery. It’s the world’s largest lunch-oriented delicatessen. I’ll say it again: Downtown redevelopment will fail unless you get a good portion of the residential real estate in the area filled, then compel standard retail development for services. Dry cleaners, mini-marts, hardware stores, grocers of course, “drug stores”, small retail that isn’t collector’s items, hair salons, restaurants that do not close at 7 PM to avoid the evening rush of drunken post-teens on their way to the training bars … it won’t happen until it’s too late. It won’t happen until what little history has accidently remained has been sacrificed to this future.

Gentle guidance that is all that’s required. The iron fist is what’s coming. They will kill the most resilient downtown in North America. Sixth Street will be another Fourth Street Galleria. The same mistake but on a Texas scale. When it fails, no one will be held accountable. After all, it could not be foreseen.

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