Rediscovering Austin: Tour de Condo?
Maybe the reason I have moved away from Austin in the past is because rediscovering Austin is so wonderful. Today I set out on my bike for Mellow Johnny’s bike shop, owned by none other than Lance Armstrong (and a few others), to watch the end of today’s stage of the Tour de France. They’re showing it on a giant screen every morning. The plan was to head for the gym after, as I hadn’t put sunscreen on or brought more than one water bottle. But watching the Tour and the relatively nice day encouraged me to hop back on the bike and just start riding… around.
Meandering up through West Campus, I marveled at all of the apartment buildings and condos going up – seems like more activity there than downtown? I wonder who will be able to afford to live in those places. I guess if you’re in your 20s and have a job in Central Austin that would be a good location. Will students be able to live there? I’m not sure what the maximum amount people can now get in student loans, but I have a feeling that many people will be tempted to spend their loan money on those cush digs. And they’ll pay for it later.
It’s great to just bike around on neighborhood streets and then hop on the path near Shoal Creek, then under Mopac on Bike Route 40 (I think) over to Exposition and down to Lake Austin Boulevard. There, again, you encounter the other end of student apartments, which is owned by the University and is reserved for married students. Speaking of, the University of Texas has been advised that the land they own over there, known as the Brackenridge tract, should be developed. Now it’s the city’s turn to try to figure out what the citizens think about that… and this Saturday there will be a public meeting on the issue. Will it be upscale condos and chic boutiques? Or can we figure out something better for the people who already live here, instead of just the refugees from California, New York, and other high-end places? Getting something innovative for working people in West Austin may not be an easy feat, but I have to ask.
From Lake Austin, I cruised under the Mopac bridge on the Roberta Crenshaw pedestrian/bike bridge, and down Barton Springs Road, stopping for a smoothie at long-time favorite Bicycle Sport Shop. Again, passing more condo developments.
I know many people question the wisdom of building so many condos, but $4 plus gas is going to encourage more and more people to find refuge in the central city. And that could mean, I hope, more people on bikes and less air pollution for us all. Which makes affordable housing in the central area all the more important. Michael King of the Austin Chronicle discusses some current efforts by Foundation Communities and others to provide affordable housing and address the NIMBY attitude in most neighborhoods.
Whew! What you can see on a simple bike ride in this town!