Archives for February 2009

Proposed Federal Court House Discussion

Over at Austin Contrarian we can find some interesting thoughts on the [poor] location of the proposed Federal Court House. Specifically, I give it up to Miggy for this simple, yet significant, observation:

“Taking a one-block by one-block square of valuable downtown land largely unencumbered by the capital view corridors off the tax rolls permanently doesn’t help Austin at all. This is where density should be targeted and this building is far from helping that goal. Also to say that the bunker-on-three-sides structure is pedestrian unfriendly would be an understatement.”

Also, Miggy brings up another concern about moving the post office to Red River.

“On a final note – the moving of the Post Office to over near Club de Ville and Red River makes no sense to me either. How many office workers will find that location convenient? And how will that dead retail streetfront (or worse-yet – similar suburban parking lot and drive-thru) help the still nascent Red River entertainment district which is already threatened by any number of other forces. I don’t know what the reasoning was but just based on my surface knowledge – they should have kept in the bottom of the Ovation building as planned.”

Andrews Urban and the Post Office own the block of land across from Stubbs. The post office was going to move there in order for Andrews Urban/Novare to build Ovation where the current post office is located. IMHO, Ovation has ZERO chance of being built within the next five years, so hopefully Miggy’s point is moot.

Rail, rail, rail

 Map Of Potential High-Speed Rail Built By The Stimulus

Map Of Potential High-Speed Rail Built By The Stimulus

Huffington Post speculates on how stimulus dollars could impact regional high-speed rail networks.

Day six, 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.

I want Urbanrail

Take me to the drag.   Take me to South Congress.  Take me to Zilker.  Take me to the airport.  90% of the time I don’t need, or want, to go anywhere else in Austin.  An urban rail (pdf) benefits not only downtown, but ALL of the urban core.  Complemented by the commuter rail, with an urban rail system in place we can begin to reduce (if not remove) minimum parking requirements for new developments.  Reduced parking requirements translates into improved streetscapes, less congestion, and more economically productive land use (more sales taxes, more ad-valorem taxes).

CAMPO TWG you can make this happen.

Day five, 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.

Improved landmark protection, design standards, and enforcement

This is an average landmarked building on East Sixth Street.  Here is another – note the beautiful brick archwork accented by a plywood sign!  The building owners, tenants, and the city should be embarrassed.  So much of Austin’s history exists in those buildings.  Any building that has a landmark plaque should be respected and preserved.

The city may say “we don’t regulate ugly”.  They should.  The city must better leverage the Historical Landmark Commission and Heritage Society to protect the facades, awnings, and cleanliness of our historic buildings..  Unless the city begins to affect positive change, we will continue to see the warehouse district disappear and East Sixth Street deteriorate.  It appears that voluntary compliance by landlords to maintain an expected (or expressed) standard doesn’t work and the city must begin to enforce regulations.

BTW, the owners of landmarked buildings get significant tax breaks.

Four Seasons update from developer

Just received this update from the Four Seasons Residences.  It pretty much confirms what I’ve been saying about the strength of the downtown Austin condo market – the sky is not falling.

“As we enter 2009, Four Seasons Residences Austin is nearly 50% sold. Understandably, the last quarter of 2008 was slow, but sales activity in 2009 has picked up considerably. In the last week we signed a new contract for a 2,700 square foot residence and have a number of additional contracts in process.”

“Figures for the condominium market in downtown Austin are very encouraging. Of the 800 units delivered in 2008, over 90% have already closed. Furthermore, several planned projects have been put on indefinite hold due to a lack of financing which will reduce the amount of future supply for years to come.”