Archives for November 2008

Downtown Austin Condos: Build or bust? Fact or editorial disguised as fact?

by jude galligan

does the statesman use dirty headline tactics?

"At last?"

The Austin American Statesman is one of two local papers (the other being the Chronicle) that reach Austin’s masses. These newspapers set the agenda and guide the discussion on topics of their choosing. The words printed on the pages of the Statesman, Austin’s most widely read newspaper, have the power to affect the home values and lives of thousands of Austinites. With that power comes responsibility.

Wednesday morning I picked up a Statesman at Jos Coffee and in big bold black letters “Condos caught by crisis at last”, “Breakneck rate on sales of units, construction slows as credit and capital dry up”.

Curiously, neither of those dramatic headlines exist in the online version of the article. In the print edition, immediately to the left, in much smaller font, was the news – the government is injecting $800MM to expand the credit markets.

Shonda Novak is a staff writer at the Statesman and wrote the above article. Shonda has been reporting on Austin real estate for years. If Shonda writes that the sky is falling on Austin real estate, then 100k+ Austin readers look at their spouse and say “Hon, did you see that article in today’s paper about Downtown condos? I’m telling you, Babe, those developers will never sell all those condos! Just wait and they’ll be selling them at twenty cents on the dollar!”

I read and re-read the article. Seeing the print edition headline, I expected catastrophe. Instead, I found nothing at all particularly newsworthy.

Is it possible that the Statesman’s headline was overly sensational?

Taking a similar approach to how I dissected this article, after the jump, I’ve cut/pasted a handful of quotes from the article, and then I explain if that quote is, generally speaking, true, false, or if the quotes are generalizations or simply editorial in nature.

[Read more…]

Downtown Austin By The Numbers: How many hotel rooms?

by jude galligan

Driskill Hotel Lobby

Driskill Hotel Lobby

If you’ve ever had family visit on a weekend when there was a UT home game, then you’ve likely seen downtown Austin hotel rates jump to over $400 per night.  Central Austin is notorious for having insufficient hotel space.  I’ve taken a non-scientific, yet hopefully rigorous approach – I called every hotel in downtown Austin and simply asked “How many hotel rooms do you have?”

The answer is after the jump!

[Read more…]

SOLD! Plaza Lofts #1207

311 w 5th st, austin, tx 78701
list price: $320,000
sale price: $315,000
sf: 1,199

Downtown Austin's Entertainment District: Observations part 3 of 3

Downtown Austin Entertainment District Still Has Room For Improvement – Part 1 of 3
Night time observations on the Entertainment District: Part 2 of 3

The effort to revitalize the Entertainment District is about recognizing problems and offering solutions.  It is about a higher and better use of Austin’s historic landmarks.  It’s about preventing decay.  It’s about offering an array of services to the people who use the Entertainment District everyday.  Adding more day time services is not a slippery slope to J Crews and Baby Gaps!  This is about making the Entertainment District safe for everyone.  This is about visitors leaving Austin with a more positive experience.

Flickr slideshow of day time photos

one of Austins historic landmarked buildings with a plywood sign (???)

one of Austin's landmarked buildings adorned with a plywood sign (???)

Day time tour
Saturday, November 22nd (11am-1pm)

  1. Where is everybody?
  2. Narrow sidewalks, empty parking
  3. “No, I don’t have a cigarette you can bum”
  4. “No, I’m not giving you change”
  5. A sandwich on the sidewalk
  6. Broken glass
  7. An empty Austin Visitors Bureau with a broken neon sign
  8. Landmarked buildings that look abused and neglected
  9. “Couldn’t they at least paint those doors?”
  10. Landmark plaques next to broken windows
  11. An ATM that someone had tried to rob
  12. Jail-style bars on doors and windows
  13. Awnings torn, tattered, and covered in dirt
  14. Too much chain link fence
  15. ATMs are everywhere
  16. A pay phone booth without a pay phone
  17. Waller Creek is shamefully littered
  18. There is 17,000 square feet of unused retail space at 5th & Sabine.

Towards the end of Saturday’s day time tour, Marshall Jones (President of DANA) and I were standing on the northeast corner of 6th and Brazos sharing observations.  We see a guy across the street.  He’s wearing a Hawaiian shirt, picking up litter on the street, and putting it in the trash.  Turns out this was John Erwin, owner of B.D. Rileys Pub.  John had no idea that Marshall and I were watching him do this.  We caught up with him and chatted for a few minutes.  What I like about John, and people like John, is that he is proactive and doing right by our community.  Kudos, John!

Downtown Austin's Entertainment District: Observations part 2 of 3

typical weekend on sixth street

typical weekend on sixth street

Yesterday, I posted about the revitalization study underway for Downtown Austin’s Entertainment District.  Below are my observations from our night time tour.

Night time tour
Friday, November 20th, midnight – 3am.
The focus is on the entertainment district as a whole – not just Sixth Street.  Five of us rendezvoused at the Driskill hotel at midnight and we were on our way.  Our mission was not to drink.  We were there to observe.  We were directed to walk the alleys, the side streets, and take notes on anything we found to be interesting.  In general, I never once felt uneasy or threatened.  Most people were out having a great time.  Good or bad.  For better or for worse.  Below is what I observed.

  1. People still wait in lines? I’m getting old!
  2. Sixth Street, east of Neches was desolate. Minimal activity and seemingly an area which only exists to get from Red River or I-35 to the “good” clubs west of Neches.
  3. Police congregate on Trinity and Sixth.  Couldn’t they spread out?
  4. Most people looked to be less than 25 years old.
  5. Concessionaires are doing good business (best wurst had a fifty foot line!)
  6. Hoek’s Pizza is blasting music louder than some clubs.
  7. I see and hear more iPod DJs, than I do live bands
  8. There are crews of guys full of alcohol and testosterone that could easily be instigated into a fight.
  9. I see one fight in front of the Texas Lottery Commission.
  10. We stopped and talked with homeless people outside of the ARCH.  Some were under the influence of something, but generally not hostile.  If anything, they were very chatty and candid about their problems, and the problems surrounding the ARCH.  Below are some of the more interesting things we were told.
    • Drug dealers arrive from other parts of town to sell to the mentally ill and homeless
    • The southeast corner of 7th and Trinity (Caritas) is a big drug corner
    • Crack house at 8th and Neches (pic)
    • Crack house on Neches btw 8th and 9th (pic)
  11. Why on earth did they place the ARCH across from a major liquor store and a block from Austin’s biggest weekend party?
  12. Red River, IMHO, is keeping the “live music capital” brand alive.
  13. The owners of Koriente maintain a beautiful small garden at the southeast corner of 7th and Sabine.  They should be acknowledged for giving to our community.
  14. None of the lights on Waller Creek were turned on.  Who’s in charge of this?

Next, I’ll share my observations from our day time tour