Silhouettes of Growth

Construction and Cranes - Austin, Texas

Construction and Cranes – Austin, Texas

There are three high-rise towers going up, right next to each other, on the west side of downtown. This image, in an abstract way, represents those three new developments. There’s a crane for each building, along with some structural framing. These silhouettes are a proxy for the continued growth of downtown.

You might not be surprised to hear that Austin metro is in the top 10 for growth between 2015 to 2016. We now have slightly north of 2 million people with about 60,000 people moving here over that period. I was surprised to read, however, that the fastest growth is in the suburbs, specifically in Williamson and Hays counties, north and south of downtown. That means, despite all the high-rise construction, it’s not central Austin that’s growing the fastest.

I believe, however, it’s the growth of the central core that matters the most. Putting aside the issue of affordability, which is certainly a big issue. The outer counties that surround Austin look like any other place in Texas, and are not too dissimilar to many suburban developments around the country. It’s the central core that ultimately determines the character of the place, which includes Austin’s quirkiness, live music, restaurants and creative energy. Like I’ve said before, you don’t have much of a sub-urb without the urb(an) core.

The ultimate challenge is, how do you make it so that everyone who wants to, can live near the center. Brighter minds than me are trying to figure that out.

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3 thoughts on “Silhouettes of Growth

  1. I don’t know who affords to live in all the high rise residential towers they are building in Austin. Most of the droves of people who move here after reading about how hip and quirky Austin is probably end up up in the suburbs. I’m not surprised at all at the higher growth in surrounding communities. I’ve been observing it for quite some time. Out in Williamson county where I live there has been frenzied construction for several years now, both residential and commercial. The corn fields around us have been replaced by cheaply built but still pricey subdivisions that are built so quickly they seem to be rolled out like carpet. Sadly, with increasing property taxes and steady increases in rent or condo fees there are a lot of people in Austin who won’t be able to keep the pace and will move further out into suburbs. I know several people who are in that boat.

    1. Creating acres of sub divisions with increasing distance from the center is a failed long term development strategy. One proven by many cities, much larger than Austin. Unfortunately, the developers, builders and financiers have yet to come up with a significant alternative.

      For all the talk of smart growth and new urban development, much of the same development continues to happen since the 1950s.

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