Old Austin: A Virtual Tour

(really) old Austin, circa 1839

(really) old Austin, circa 1839

Old Austin Neighborhood Association has a block-by-block virtual tour of historic ‘Old Austin’.  Old Austin is that part of downtown which is north of 7th, south of 15th St., east of Lamar, west of San Antonio St.  At Oldaustin.org, you can learn more about the properties on each block.  You can even see historical maps dated from 1839-2008 for most blocks.  Check it out!


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.

Today's Downtown Austin link roundup

Photo by KevinFromTexas @ skyscraperpage

Photo by KevinFromTexas @ skyscraperpage

Loft Decor consolidates its retail at the Domain (link)

W-Hotel goes after back up financing (link)

CapMetro working to quiet railroad crossings on it’s 32 mile commuter rail (link)

Urban Transportation Commission Adopts Recommendations for Downtown Austin Plan (link)

Governor’s mansion is one of Texas’s most endangered historic places (link)

DJ Spooky @ Alamo and Mohawk

East Ave: The Racial Divide

East Ave: The Racial Divide

East Avenue, now I-35

East Avenue, now I-35

Most of you know that I-35 used to be East Ave and that Austin wasn’t born with these two decks of transportation dystopia.   I’ve always assumed that the historical racial divide between East Austin and West Austin was artificially created by the beast we know as I-35. Perhaps not.  According to this Community Impact article…

“Deed restrictions kept African-Americans and Mexican-Americans east of the Avenue until actual segregation laws were passed in the 1920s.”

I’ve been working on acquiring a piece of land in West Austin. Just last week I was reading through the deed records and was shocked when I read something similar. It’s interesting to see that in our history, being on the wrong side of the tracks was actually written into law.

Emergence of Austin's Urban Family?

Last month a baby was born in my building! No kidding. Mom and Dad decided to employ a mid-wife and birth the baby in their condo.

This morning Chris Bradford over at Austin Contrarian posted an interesting map showing where “families” lived in the year 2000. Downtown Austin, not surprisingly, showed very few. Downtown Austin in 2000 was a much different place. We didn’t have a supermarket. We didn’t have Frost Tower. We didn’t have the Convention Center. We didn’t have much of what makes Downtown a special place. If you wanted anything more than a two bedroom home you could look at the Towers of Town Lake or Cambridge Towers – take your pick!

I know several families living in Downtown Austin. In fact, the Mayor’s family lives in a Downtown Austin condo. The U.S. Government conducts its census every 10 years and I cant wait to see the 2010 numbers.