Downtown Austin’s Defacto Financial District

Downtown Austin’s Defacto Financial District

The 600 block of W. 5th Street has strangely evolved to host a single use: drive through banks.

Yesterday’s Statesman article announcing Endeavor’s forthcoming development of IBC Bank Plaza left me chuckling, as I wondered about the market forces leading to this.

It’s quite odd. Unlike retail or entertainment districts, there are no obvious economies of agglomeration with several drive through banks near each other.  They don’t even share driveways.

This particular block of 5th Street has nice wide great-streets-style sidewalks, which the respective developers paid for.  And I grant you, the surface parking is neither attractive nor productive.  I’m not complaining about the new IBC Bank.  It’s just a curious situation.

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. On the IBC Bank Plaza, based on the images that I have studied, I don’t think from 5th street one will even know there is a drive thru. It appears to me that the only way one would know there is a drive thru is due to a double wide curb cut on Nueces for bank drive thru customers exiting. It looks to me as if the “drive thru” is buried underneath the parking garage and towards the rear of the building, and that the 5th street edge will have restaurants and a lobby to the office building. I actually like this design and think it’s a very creative solution.

  2. Anyone else find it ridiculous to call a tiny section of a city a “district”? It’s getting a little out of hand in Austin, every other block is a different “district”. Give me a break.

  3. Andre Suissa says

    IBC built that new bank branch on Pleasant Valley and Cesar Chavez…probably one of the nicest retail developments east of IH 35… goes to show they like to invest in their real estate. While sharing drive-thru’s would be smart planning, I can’t imagine that’d ever happen given the economics behind drive-thrus. Banks have big egos and drive-thru’s, just like parking, are a valuable commodity. Not sure how the design is set up, but I have feeling the drive-thru’s have a separate cashier kiosk similar to Chase’s on Lavaca and 5th. That drive-thru portion can be leased to a separate bank without the use of the office building. I had appraised a new building that was using the adjacent building’s old drive-thru and cashier kiosk. The old building removed their bank tenant if favor of a different use. The new building’s bank tenant is paying $57/SF on the cashier kiosk space with several drive-thru lanes on top of their base rental in the $30’s for their retail space. The economies of bank drive-thrus are attractive for bank end-users since it contributes to both business and real estate interests. With that said, to accomplish a mixed-use environment, we have to leave it up to the city to implement design guidelines for drive-thrus. Does our Downtown Plan cover this?

    Also, I don’t know how you’d go about restricting development of drive-thrus within certain distances of existing drive-thrus since we have such a high concentration of bars side-by-side…not a fair argument.

    Jude, I was trying to compare Austin to Dallas since they are the financial hub of TX. I don’t know their downtown at all, but it didn’t look like there was as high of a concentration of drive-thrus in a one block radius even though they have so many banks. Anyone know?

    • One of the goals of the DAP is to transform dead zones, such as drive through banks, entire blocks of parking garages, or office building facades which are not activated. I don’t think this could happen in the future, once the DAP is codified.

  4. Just a little thing, but are you positive you have the IBC Bank outline correct on the image? Shouldn’t the outline run east/west along 5th street? If the project address is 500 W 5th, that would include the southeast corner, at 5th and San Antonio. Also, the Architect photo in the AAS shows the street going uphill from left to right with one way traffic. Just wondering…

    • David, good catch. You’re correct (just updated my original sketch with the correct orientation). The IBC site does run lengthwise east-west, from Nueces to San Antonio.

  5. it seems to be an eyesore that must be endured for visitors to get to the gems (diamonds in the ruff so to speak) in downtown Austin.

  6. Miguel Monsivais says

    I am complaining, Jude. That design sucks. And you’re right too. I didn’t realize all the drive-thru banks. I’m getting a bit annoyed by it. How do these designs plan into the “Imagine Austin” vision? Just wondering.

Add New Comment or Leave Reply