A Rapidly Changing Skyline

2010 Skyline - Austin, Texas

2010 Skyline – Austin, Texas

Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. The downtown, in particular, has seen extraordinary changes. For today’s post, I dug into my archives for a photo I took 6 years ago, in 2010. The boom was already in full swing, and since then, many more skyscrapers were added. The building under construction is the W Hotel on 2nd Street. The entire area is now filled with upscale residences anchored by upscale retail. Soon, 2nd street will be extended west to connect to the new Central Library and the newly redeveloped Seaholm complex. Lots of changes, for sure.

The downside, rising costs, especially living downtown. You really need to be affluent or be willing to spend a good chunk of your monthly budget for that downtown, urban lifestyle. On the plus side, you have a central core that’s more valuable. Not just financially, as measured by property values or tax revenue, but more importantly, as a vibrant destination that attracts the young professionals. Though a majority of the Austinites live in the suburbs, it’s the downtown that gives a city its identity. I believe you can’t have an effective sub-urb, without a vital central urb(an core).

I’m sure a bunch of people don’t like the changes. Certainly rising costs and oppressive traffic are some of the downsides. But what’s the alternative? In an increasingly, winner take all society, in technology, the economy and even social media, if your city isn’t getting attention, it’s being passed over. Super expensive places like New York and San Francisco continue to grow, despite their costs. Austin has its own pull, making it one of the most expensive places in Texas. There is a huge number of inexpensive places to live in Texas, but many of those places are shrinking. Their downtown core is a shell of the bustling heydays, when railways determined growth.

I shot this with my Canon 20D with a a kit 18-55mm lens. It was the second serious camera I bought after my first DSLR, a Canon Rebel XT, in 2006. I bought the used 20D, inexpensively, a few years later. I loved it for its prosumer build with a beefier grip and direct controls. It’s an 8MP camera which can still makes perfectly good images, printed up to at least 13″ x 19″ and certainly overkill for typical web posts.


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10 thoughts on “A Rapidly Changing Skyline

    1. I could understand that.

      But, there are plenty of no-growth cities that have no traffic and no construction. And they are not doing too well. Despite the downsides, I choose Austin.

      1. You’re right. There are a lot of small cities — like Worcester — who have been unable to get moving forward. Some, like Worcester, have made very small progress, but barely enough and i doubt they are keep even, much less growing. Let’s hope Austin has good city managers who are doing their best to preserve while expanding. It’s not easy.

      2. Everything has up and down cycles. Austin will inevitably decline because continuous growth is an illusion and ultimately, not desirable, I think.

        It would be great to have homeostasis. But I don’t think anybody has figured that one out.

      3. Change is life. Only dead things don’t change. But there is planned, controlled growth versus wild growth that eats everything that once was beautiful. Nice when cities find that balance.

      4. Austin’s rapid growth is not being managed well. The roads have long been inadequate and the problem only worsens as people continue to move here in droves. Natural resources are not given due consideration as development rages forward. A good dose of rain this year seems to have made people forget that we are still in drought and water may be a scarce resource in a not so distant future. I remember when the skyline was clear. Now the city is almost continuously veiled in smog – Ozone they call it these days. Housing costs are out of control. I make what I think is a decent living these days but still couldn’t afford to live anywhere near, much less in the city. I don’t know who affords to live in the city. Apparently a lot of people can because they can’t seem to build condos fast enough. They tear down places I used to like to build them. Food, entertainment, parking all continue to get more expensive. Is it all for the best? I don’t know. Time will tell. My belief is that the balloon is going to pop eventually. Maybe Austin will keep “progressing” and become the city that only the affluent can afford to be as it seems to be striving for. Or maybe it will end up being rows and rows of empty condos that people can no longer afford. An empty facade smeared over what used to be a city of great character. What people used to call weird.

      5. The funny (or sad) thing is that Austin’s roads were inadequate even before the latest boom. It certainly has become worse.

        I have no doubt that that Austin’s growth will slow. How quickly and how severely, who knows. People often get too wrapped up in booms and bubbles, thinking that it will never end. It does end and sometimes with dire consequences.

        Detroit was once the 4th largest city in the U.S., now it’s the 21st.

        You are right, Mike. Water is a major concern and if we run low on it, things are going to change really quickly. You can’t run much of a city without water.

        Averages are deceptive because the outliers skew results, however, Austin’s cost of living is still close to the national U.S. average. Sure, costs have risen tremendously but that’s partially because Austin was a cheap place to live before.

  1. My wife and I spent the weekend in Toronto. We live just west of there now. She grew up in Toronto and I grew up in Mississauga, a suburb about a 30 minute drive to the west. Toronto is going through a building boom. I spent years in the downtown core of Toronto and now I get lost. There are new streets and condos in places it seemed inconceivable to build condos on (sorry abut the dangling participle!). All my old benchmarks have changed. We’ve never been to Austin, but I imagine Austin and Toronto have a lot in common. It is dizzying. And crazily expensive. It isn’t right to have to dodge Ferraris and Bentleys on the way to the movies. The photos ops are great. So we got that going for us.

    1. Hi Peter. I have some found memories of Toronto and I’ve been up there a number of times but all back 30 years ago. Toronto is a lot bigger than Austin and probably a lot richer. We don’t typically doge Ferraris and Bentleys here but being a tech hub, we have a lot of Teslas.

      Austin gets a long of mention on travel shows and it’s known for live music and related events, but its downtown is not very big. There is a a lot of sprawl like many newer U.S. cities.

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