Day four, becoming a model urban neighborhood: what does Downtown Austin need?

Each day this week I am serving up one item, with non-politically correct candor, that Downtown Austin needs to become a model of re-urbanization, as I see it.

Politicians love to talk, form task forces, and spend time doing everything except for making decisions as they are needed.  So, this is an appeal to Downtown Austin stakeholders that know how to get things done:  the residents, developers, retailers, and land owners.

ARCH and related social services should be moved away from Sixth Street while remaining in Downtown

This month we’ve read about two measures being discussed to cut down on crime in Downtown Austin: 1) installing cameras, 2) installing lights in front of Caritas.  These efforts will not work because they don’t address the real problem. The ARCH, Salvation Army, and Caritas are the hub for Downtown Austin’s increasingly frequent and violent crime.  The crime comes from drug dealers praying on the homeless and the mentally ill.  Prostitution lives around these places.  Drugs are used as a form of payment.  According to the police, Forty-two percent of all drug arrests in downtown happen within a block of these buildings.  That is an amazing statistic.

During a midnight to 3am observation tour for 6ixth Street Austin, myself and a few other Downtown stakeholders 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)

Why on earth did they place the ARCH across from a major liquor store and a block from Austin’s biggest weekend party?  Downtown Austin stakeholders must work with the city to make a politically volatile decision: move the ARCH away from Sixth Street to significantly affect positive change.

About Jude Galligan

Jude Galligan, REALTOR, Principal of TOWERS Realty and publisher of Downtown Austin Blog (aka. "DAB"), spends his time matching remarkable people with remarkable properties in Austin’s urban core. A resident owner in downtown Austin, Jude has served on the Board of the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA) and the City of Austin Downtown Commission. Contact Jude.


  1. have you ever walked by ARCH? They are crammed up against the windows and against eachother spilling out into the streets(with their capacity for 100- 250 people). for recovery they only have one AA meeting a week(AA is not going to help these people). And for all the money that this town has spent on hike and bike trails for all the yuppies who’s ankles are too weak to run on grass- we couldnt build one more story on top of that building to “warehouse the putrid”.

  2. To reiterate, this is a difficult and politically volatile decision. IMHO, it’s one that needs to be made. Fortunately, the city owns a lot of property in Downtown.

    Only the ARCH is run by the city. A move would require coordination with the private social services, specifically Caritas and the Salvation Army.

    Transit is a significant factor, so Capital Metro would need to weigh in as well.

  3. Where would you locate the ARCH and related social services?

  4. One could also ask why the police don’t do anything about the drug market and crack houses given they’re basically right up the street from headquarters.

    A few years ago, a friend and I parked his car on Neches and were immediately set upon by a bumtrepreneur (nice word) pulling the typical “I’ll watch your car” scam. There was a cop about 20 feet away. I walked over to him and told him what the guy was doing, and he didn’t even bat an eyelash (didn’t say a word).

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