7 Ways To Make Downtown Austin Even Better

7 Ways To Make Downtown Austin Even Better

“Dude, I’ve got these ideas, so many ideas burnin’ through my skull…”

Living in downtown Austin is great and like anything else, over time, you begin to form ideas on what could really make it better.  Not all of these are my original ideas – but they are all notions that I would support.

1) Downtown Austin Needs A General Store

We need a friggin’ Target, not another boutique doggy day care!

We’ve written about both of these things before, and it seems like quite a few folks are hopping on the urban Target concept (Target Express) bandwagon.

Target Express

Rendering of a Target Express concept – which is geared toward city dwellers

2) Building Spirit

The Grand Illumination in Richmond Virginia

It would be cool to see downtown Austin condo buildings unite for certain holidays (or for other specific reasons / causes).  One idea that I’ve seen floating around is allowing units within the buildings to decorate their respective balconies for the winter holidays, and perhaps do a neighborhood wide contest. Politics aside, it would be wonderful to see a coordinated effort to get people into the general spirit.

photo by Jessica Kilma

photo by Jessica Kilma

Halloween is also a wonderful opportunity for residents of downtown Austin condos to invite families within the community and otherwise to enjoy traditional trick-or-treating. The Shore, in coordination with DANA, has participated in a small scale version of this with much success (Although, I’m a bit biased, as this is an effort that I personally started).  Honestly, I’m not sure who gets more from this particular event, the families or the residents.

3) Ice Cream Truck with a Downtown Route

This kid went to the Rick Perry school of eating.

I would LOVE for downtown to have a traditional ice cream truck that regularly drives around the neighborhood (and perhaps have a route with specific stops so people could plan their ice cream indulgence).

There’s a stationary stand that just popped up next to Downtown Burgers on Cesar Chavez across from the Austin Convention Center, but it’s just not quite the same.

Stationary Ice Cream Goodies Offered While They Last on Cesar Chavez, Across from the Convention Center

Stationary Ice Cream Goodies Offered While They Last on Cesar Chavez, Across from the Convention Center

4) Boat Taxis / Gondolas to Cross Ladybird Lake

This isn’t as crazy as it may seem.

Before the 20th century, getting from downtown Austin to the South bank of the colorado river was done largely by… ferries!  It’s true, and you can see a historic plaque telling you about it on the hike & bike trail as you pass the Four Seasons hotel.

Bring it back!  Sure would make it fun to check out the hot spots on the South Austin.

5) Swimming in Ladybird Lake

lady-bird-lake-1

And, while we’re talking about the lake, I want to be able to swim in it, gosh dangit!  Full Kramer style.

Sure, it’s filled with trash, old steel rebar, and dog poo.  Those are solvable problems! Every few years Lake Austin is allowed to drain in order to clean up the duck weed.  So, what’s stopping this from happening on Lady Bird Lake and then get volunteers to remove debris?

KUT recently wrote an article explaining why it’s illegal to swim in the lake, and it’s chock full of great information.  The article, however, lacked any proposed solutions that would make the lake swimmable. 🙁

6) Non-terrifying Public Restrooms (Pay Per Use) like the Germans have

pay-toilet-europe

One of my favorite things about Germany is the preponderance of pay restrooms in public spaces (like rail stations, malls, etc).  McClean is among the most well-known of these types of facilities, and they are great. These restrooms require a very small fee (about $0.50) for use, and had attendants.  The restrooms were sparkling.  McClean’s motto is “clean, safe, and served” and that is 100% accurate in my experience.

I want some of these in public spaces downtown – like, real bad.  I am often petrified to use public restrooms in downtown Austin, and I can’t be the only one.

Recently, we discussed a new alley activation movement, and our friend and contributor Fred Schmidt highlighted the need for good, safe, public restrooms.  Seems like this idea could help make that a reality.

7) Personalized Mural Art for Condo Building Parking Spaces

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This one is a little out of left-field – but I just think it would be oh-so-cool.

With all the pretty new buildings popping up in downtown – the fact of the matter is that their corresponding garage spaces remain ugly – particularly on the “inside.”  Wouldn’t it be neat if each condo owner had the opportunity to work with an HOA approved artist to paint a personalized (within HOA set guidelines) mural in their parking space?  If a lot of owners got on board – it would absolutely TRANSFORM the ugliest parts of the condo buildings downtown into something unique, funky, and amazing.  Not to mention how it would be a wonderful opportunity to support local art in a truly cool way.

Some buildings are starting to get on board with general murals in their garages in “common” garage spaces (like entries and elevator bays – see above slideshow for a couple of Austin examples) but this would be an amazing extension of that effort in my opinion.  Many urban cities have been doing similar concepts for years – the concept I’m describing would be a slightly different version of what’s already being done (and, for the record, I would support these concepts, too!).

What ideas do you have for downtown Austin?

About amber gugino

Amber Gugino loves living downtown and has been an active board member of the The Shore Condo Owners Association, Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association and member of the Junior League of Austin. She adores her dog, Blog, and she learns something new about downtown Austin every day.

Comments

  1. avatar Ron Binkley says:

    Every couple of years we drain Lake Austin to kill the duckweed. Why don’t we drain Lady Bird Lake and have a community clean up. Get some inmates from the Travis County Jail to work off their community service. I’m sure we will find more than just rusted rebar in that lake. Maybe then it will be a swimmable lake again. BTW….San Antonio drains the San Antonio River every 1-2 years and turns it into a mud festival. Austinites are not above getting a little muddy!

  2. I notice you mention downtown public restrooms as being dirty/scary/unusable. What do you consider public restrooms? I can’t think of any off the top of my head that aren’t on the Hike and Bike trail or inside another building or bar. Are there any true public restrooms maintained by the city downtown? Or do you count the ones in the capitol, office buildings, etc? Just curious as to what qualifies.

    • The only dedicated public restrooms that come to mind are on the Hike & Bike trail, like you mention. City Hall or the State Capitol are obviously public, and count somewhat, and are maintained along with the buildings they’re attached… so not exactly what we had in mind.

    • amber gugino says:

      Ryan, you’ve identified the other reason for the need. The general lack of them, in coordination with the fact that most of the ones that are even publicly available are a little (or more than a little) gross.

  3. avatar Lance Hunter says:

    Wait, you want one of Austin’s ice cream trucks to do a route in downtown? Dude, just get your weed guy to deliver like everybody else downtown does.

  4. In return for the right to install advertising kiosks on city streets, JCDecaux has operated coin-operated self-cleaning public toilets in San Francisco for many years. The city recently opened several new public toilets that are staffed by attendants.
    http://sfdpw.org/index.aspx?page=1883

  5. Uber, but for gondolas.

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