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  #1  
Old Posted Jun 16, 2019, 9:59 PM
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Are we building interesting places?

I don't really know where to put this as we don't have a general discussion thread but this question has been nagging at me.

Are we building interesting places?

I'm not just talking about interesting-looking architecture but actual places for us to go and enjoy ourselves.

Of course it's possible that some of these buildings will have nice restaurants that aren't so insanely expensive that we can experience one in a while, but other than restaurants and high-end boutique stores, what are we really getting with all of this development?

I can really only think of 3 projects under development that I could consider "interesting places":
  1. Waterloo Park (and the adjacent Brackenridge area)
  2. The MLS stadium at McKalla Place
  3. The UT basketball/event arena

Those are the only three places I could see myself visiting very often.

I know I can't expect every development to be something I could enjoy but I just wonder if we could be getting more out of all this development; more stuff that benefits Austin residents and enriches our lives, like museums, music venues, event spaces, theaters, or quirky little shops.

I'm just afraid of downtown Austin developing into too much of a clean, safe, stale, yuppie environment. I hope developers start taking risks with their ground-floor spaces. Even a slightly different kind of establishment could stand out amongst the rest of the homogeneity these days.
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  #2  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2019, 1:09 AM
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Unfortunately, I would say no. Austin does not have a ton of (new) engaging public / outdoor attractions. I'm hopeful that Waller Creek will be successful in the future, but other than that, there's not a lot going on.

I think Zilker, Guerrero, and Butler are woefully underutilized for a world class city. The type of upgrades added to Butler recently were a great step forward. The Long Center and Event Center could provide more to the city given their location. That area could be a great spot for a future sports team.

The Seaholm Intake facility needs to be turned into public use ASAP. The south shore development is moving at an agonizing pace, and I don't have a ton of confidence in the vision so far. Our museum and art scene is embarrassing with poor prospects on the horizon.

I would love to see any movement on these projects over any of the skyscrapers going up.

Don't mean to sound negative because I love this city, but I'd love to see more development outside of office buildings and restaurants!
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  #3  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2019, 2:05 AM
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The newish Central Library is pretty nice.
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Old Posted Jun 17, 2019, 2:08 AM
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The newish Central Library is pretty nice.
Good point. Yes, that was a great addition.
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Old Posted Jun 17, 2019, 5:59 AM
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I've gotten a lot of use out of Butler Park. It's usually the place I end up after a bike ride around downtown. That and the boardwalk. I think they're really two of the most important projects in downtown in a long time that benefited the public, but you are right, Butler Park could have a little more to it. I'm curious to see how Waterloo Park and the Waller Creek trails turn out. As for sports, eh, I'd rather keep away from Auditorium Shores and Butler Park. Unless you're talking about demolishing the Long Center and Palmer Events Center, which even then, I'm not sure I'd prefer a hulking sports venue next to a park.
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  #6  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2019, 1:39 PM
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Syndic, I LOVE this topic.


I do think the Austin FC is an amazing start for a new era in Austin entertainment and recreation, truly taking us out of the slow moving college football town into a 21st century big city.

Broken record Ahealy here, but we desperately need a world class museum AND planetarium (not part of UT). I love the outdoors so much, but I never feel drawn to 'going to town lake with my dog' like 80% of the people that live here.

I really want to see diversity in new businesses popping up around town. The culinary scene is thriving, but I think it hurts a city when we kinda lean on that as an attraction.
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  #7  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2019, 2:55 PM
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I think Austin has fantastic spaces if outdoors are your thing. Greenbelts, tons of trails, great biking, wildflower center, etc. If you like soccer of football there are amazing places to playm. Free frisebee golf everywhere.

If you want to get out of town that all just gets 10x better.

I think our nightlife is also absolutely fantastic for all budget ranges.

I think our complete failure as a city is in family activities. This means museums, zoos, aquariums, planetariums, etc.

The state and UT have some of this (and the Blanton and Ransom are world class) but we definitely have the issue lots of newer explosive cities have. Kind of a lack of "old money" public projects.

I wouldn't even mind a small centrally located amusement park. More Tivoli or Kennywood and less six flags.

Well get there. I think our curre t leadership is pretty positive in movement towards making human scale a consideration of Austin
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Old Posted Jun 17, 2019, 5:31 PM
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The planned Pease Park upgrades are very interesting and will be a nice step up in terms of an urban park. This project is an example of some "Old Money" doing some good things. In this case, it is the Moody Foundation to the tune of $9.7 million bucks. Check out the neat little video preview.

https://peasepark.org/kingsbury-commons

Last edited by austlar1; Jun 18, 2019 at 8:52 PM.
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  #9  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2019, 9:18 PM
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The problem with most new developments is the lease rates go way up for new retail tenants.
Mom & Pop/Quirky/Old Austin style shops can't pay the higher rents, so it all gets backfilled with regional and national chains, or white table cloth restaurants. Instead of a 'unique' environment, you get a sterile, boring, lifestyle center mall type streetfront.

Just look at the newer Second Street District for an example. Other than going to a show at ACL, do you really "feel" like you're in Austin in that area?

It isn't bad, it just isn't very unique. I don't know how you fix that.

Last edited by zrx299; Jun 17, 2019 at 9:28 PM.
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  #10  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2019, 10:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zrx299 View Post
The problem with most new developments is the lease rates go way up for new retail tenants.
Mom & Pop/Quirky/Old Austin style shops can't pay the higher rents, so it all gets backfilled with regional and national chains, or white table cloth restaurants. Instead of a 'unique' environment, you get a sterile, boring, lifestyle center mall type streetfront.

Just look at the newer Second Street District for an example. Other than going to a show at ACL, do you really "feel" like you're in Austin in that area?

It isn't bad, it just isn't very unique. I don't know how you fix that.
Building owners would have to intentionally lower their rents and try to find the most interesting tenant possible; one that matches their overall brand rather than the one who can pay the most.

Is this realistic? Probably not, but if it's not, then this presents a problem for us as a city. It has the potential to foment an identity crisis.

I, for one, am in favor of building the buildings. The retail will change over time. But I just wonder if there's more we can do at the city level to encourage all different kinds of retail tenants.

2nd Street, at least, has Toy Joy which is cool and different, and I'm sure they get a lot of business because they're so different than everything else around there.
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Old Posted Jun 18, 2019, 12:22 AM
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Originally Posted by StoOgE View Post

I think our complete failure as a city is in family activities. This means museums, zoos, aquariums, planetariums, etc.

The state and UT have some of this (and the Blanton and Ransom are world class) but we definitely have the issue lots of newer explosive cities have. Kind of a lack of "old money" public projects.

I wouldn't even mind a small centrally located amusement park. More Tivoli or Kennywood and less six flags.
100% agreed on all of this. As someone who is just starting a family, the lack of these amenities really bugs me. We're way behind quite a few cities of the same size or smaller.

I don't think all of these necessarily need old money to subsidize the project either (although it would be hugely helpful). There are certainly profitable, family focused activities that we don't have, and Austin has a ton of new families with expendable income.

Last edited by futures; Jun 18, 2019 at 12:32 AM.
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  #12  
Old Posted Jun 18, 2019, 1:26 AM
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Towers had a recent article about a major makeover to Lake Walter E. Long Park. The master plan includes a Planetarium and a Ferris wheel among a lot of stuff.

https://austin.towers.net/east-austi...etely-bonkers/
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Old Posted Jun 18, 2019, 1:30 AM
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Speaking of museums (which this city is so desperately lacking). I've always thought that the block where the Bank of America is by Woolridge square would be a great place for an art museum. Given its rather severe CVC constraint, nothing over 1 story could ever be built there...so I think a great cultural venue like a museum would be perfect. Dig underground to make it bigger if you have to. It faces a public square, next to other cultural/public buildings (Austin history center and the courthouse), and is steps away from the capitol. If you can't build high there, build something low to the ground and architecturally world-class. Any ideas for us, Renzo Piano/Herzog+Demeuron?
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  #14  
Old Posted Jun 18, 2019, 3:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Sigaven View Post
Speaking of museums (which this city is so desperately lacking). I've always thought that the block where the Bank of America is by Woolridge square would be a great place for an art museum. Given its rather severe CVC constraint, nothing over 1 story could ever be built there...so I think a great cultural venue like a museum would be perfect. Dig underground to make it bigger if you have to. It faces a public square, next to other cultural/public buildings (Austin history center and the courthouse), and is steps away from the capitol. If you can't build high there, build something low to the ground and architecturally world-class. Any ideas for us, Renzo Piano/Herzog+Demeuron?
Nice thinking outside the box. I have often lamented the fact that such a prime block seemed to have little chance of any significant development. Is it just a CVC constraint? Aren't there also security issues regarding the Governor's Mansion? A museum might be a perfect fit for the site.
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Old Posted Jun 18, 2019, 10:38 AM
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The problem is Austin’s lack of Fortune 500 HQs. Those are the companies and rich dudes that invest millions in the arts and leisure buildings in other cities. Sattalietr offices who employ contractors don’t generate the same kind of giving. Basically, it’s not enough rich people who view austin as their primary residence and that aren’t already retired.
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Old Posted Jun 18, 2019, 2:30 PM
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It sounds like our city council needs to take up this matter and prioritize building interesting places rather than just leaving it up to the "free market". Maybe they could work with companies to foster donations rather than having it be 100% taxpayer-funded. I just know we have to do more.

The planetarium The ATX mentioned is exciting but Walter E. Long Park barely feels like Austin.
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Old Posted Jun 18, 2019, 2:43 PM
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Originally Posted by The ATX View Post
Towers had a recent article about a major makeover to Lake Walter E. Long Park. The master plan includes a Planetarium and a Ferris wheel among a lot of stuff.

https://austin.towers.net/east-austi...etely-bonkers/
Too bad all of that is WAY the hell out there. Most cities would build something like this much closer to the core.
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Old Posted Jun 18, 2019, 4:29 PM
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Too bad all of that is WAY the hell out there. Most cities would build something like this much closer to the core.
Yeah, I can't think of a single person in my circle who cares about that area of town. I've been there only once, but out of sheer curiosity during a boring weekend than anything else. It's way too far to become a regular leisure/entertainment venue.
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Old Posted Jun 18, 2019, 4:47 PM
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Yeah, I can't think of a single person in my circle who cares about that area of town. I've been there only once, but out of sheer curiosity during a boring weekend than anything else. It's way too far to become a regular leisure/entertainment venue.
I used to go fishing on this lake. Mostly for catfish. Motor boats are allowed. Easy access. Its more of a destination spot because yeah, it is a bit out there, but really not that far. I think the kind of money they are planning to throw at it would make it less attractive to me and many other anglers. My vote would be to keep it as natural as possible and do whatever they want to the Expo Center. Still, if they actually go through with this plan, and its completed in my lifetime, it would be a nice daytrip. I'm all about day tripping. Went to Franklin Safari Park and Salado yesterday. Would be nice if those places were closer to Austin if not in and around. Try looking for clusters of shops selling unique garden décor, or arts and crafts and ornaments, or antiques in a setting that isn't brick and mortar and you'll find yourself on treks to Salado, Wimberly, and towards Luling. I'm being dragged to Waco later this week because my significant other says the Waco Zoo is sooooo much nicer than the Austin Zoo. The waterpark in New Braunfels is soooo much bigger than the one in Pflugerville. The COA seems to have a "If it isn't broke, don't fix it" approach to adding attractions or at least promoting adding new attractions when there is already a steady stream of tourist and transplants coming to town for whatever is already here. Austin = food, music, drinking, parks, and trails. Sure there are a few other things to do here, but it seems I've been watching the same half a dozen movies here for the last 30 + years. We're actually heading out all this week to find something interesting to do and see outside of Austin because frankly, been here, done that. We're like an amusement park that never adds new ride and attractions, just tall buildings.
Oh, my wife did mention going back to the Austin Aquarium because maybe its better now...

Last edited by the Genral; Jun 18, 2019 at 5:24 PM.
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  #20  
Old Posted Jun 18, 2019, 6:39 PM
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Yeah...I need museums, planetariums and everything else in or near the cbd.

Enough with the tacos and bbq identity--it's time Austin created new objectives and destinations that feel more grown up. It's mildly depressing to read about major sites getting revamped as a brewery or some carbon copy Edison bulb lit establishment for people to consume food & beverages in. I appreciate what Seaholm has pulled off and hope they're able to expand into the old structure in the future. I'm mainly harping on the intake facility, which had only once been planned as a brewery way back.
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