Monday, April 14, 2008

Wrong and Right

Greetings from Tejas. I thought I was moving here for the money which would, obviously, mean an improvement in quality of life, but I was wrong. What I gained was about 5.2 million more neighbors and the associated "amenities" that accompany such populations like pro sports, live music from nearly anyone you'd ever want to see, as well as the ability purchase imported goods from any store you could ever think of. What they don't tell you in the fine print is what traffic is like in a city that believes roads will satisfy the masses and associated headaches it causes when trying to live life. And as we all know, time is money.

After driving around this city for nearly a half a year and observing development patterns along with discussions concerning these topics, I can't help but feel like our own Duke City has been watching and mimicking the wrong city all along - Dallas, TX.

We have a frontage road along I-25 just like most roads in the metroplex. We encourage sprawling development for the sake of our growing tax base without regards for future associated infrastructure needs (although I will say that Dallas fell in love with toll roads some time ago). The largest similarity I see between the cities is an overall disregard for downtown. In a city that recently became the 4th largest in the country, downtown Dallas' peers would be places such as Cincinnati and Cleveland. The city has done nothing to make improvements in years, it would appear. Meanwhile, cities such as Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta and the list continues, these places are throwing money at their inner city infrastructure because they have seen what just slight improvements have done for the reputations and for their tax bases.

Meanwhile, three hours to the south, Austin is moving along like a Bugatti Veyron with all 16 cylinders at max efficiency. They have done a decent job of catching up on freeway construction that lagged for a couple decades, they have managed to develop a reputation for outdoor sports (in Texas!), and they have managed to plan and implement a downtown that is quickly becoming the best CBD in Texas and possibly even the region. There are several emerging neighborhoods, high ends restaurants and bars, modest restaurants and bars, theatres, hotels, new office buildings, and even several new condo towers. Best yet, no one is complaining about all the partying occuring both 6th and 4th street....and Red River.

The key here is and always will be collaboration. Austin's leaders have embraced the power of a revitalized core. Mayor Marty can tout our revitalized core all he wants but he's never done a thing to get it to where it is at this early stage of redevelopment. The arena and the streetcar/light-rail projects are essential if our town is to ever make a move toward becoming the type of city Austin, Denver, Portland, etc. have become. We're quickly gaining kudos for our new industries and our bikeability. How much harder is to go the extra step and kick this revitalization into high gear already?