Austin too expensive for itself

It’s now official. This is the quote of the week, as reported today in the local daily (byline Kate Alexander): “We just couldn’t afford to be right in the middle of downtown.” Yes; the City will spend $6.9 million to buy the Home Depot that has been northeast Austin’s unofficial day-labor center and there it plans to place Municipal Court and some unknown portion of APD, which currently houses its headquarters in the same building as Municipal Court. Why not just move all municipal and county functions to Pflugerville? Once known chiefly as the home of nearly innumerable people with the surname of Pfluger, it now bills itself as “Where Quality Meets Life” and is a rapidly growing haven for those who find Austin quarters too expensive these days.

Another reason given for making this move is that the site “offers ample parking.” It’s noted that there is public transportation but not that only one bus goes there, as near as I can figure out, one of those crosstowns that requires a transfer from another bus, generally. This is reminiscent of the last time I was summoned to jury duty. The preliminaries were conducted at the old Crockett Center (old Best Products showroom) and there were very elaborate directions given for those driving there but there was nothing to guide those without private conveyances. It was before the nifty point-to-point Capital Metro on-line feature, and it was dismaying to see the lack of sidewalks and all the bad approaches there were for bus-riders. The County has moved many functions from downtown, very inconvenient for those without private transportation (althouth the upside is that Lammes Candy is just a life-threatening sprint across the road).

I liked it when every sort of official business could be transacted downtown, including dealing with gas, electric, and telephone accounts. All could be taken care of during the noon-hour. Not only that, anybody needing to skip town could, within blocks of the Capitol, hop on a Trailways, Kerrville, or Greyhound bus, fortified with salted nuts from Woolworth’s and some candy from Lammes. That’s what I call density, now long gone, and I don’t think that decentralizing public services and scattering them all over town is helpful at all.

Update: Today’s local daily (10/13) reports (byline Sara Coppola) that LULAC and ACLU object to the proposed Municipal Court location. I’ve heard that attorneys who take Municipal Court cases and cases in other courts as well were surprised by this decision and will find it inconvenient. I wonder why APD can’t move to the Home Depot and leave Municipal Court to take over the entire existing building. In another article today, the local daily reminds us (byline Shonda Novak) that the City sold an entire block of downtown, just north of City Hall, for a mere $15 million. Intended to go there are a high-end boutique hotel, top-dollar condos, and a new performance venue, which will be used by, among others, the Austin City Limits television show. Juxtapose these two land deals. Is there something wrong here? Just wondering.

4 Comments so far

  1. Tim (unregistered) on October 12th, 2007 @ 4:58 pm

    Sign of the times. All business can be transacted downtown still. It’s just that downtown now encapsulates everything withing the I-35/MoPac/183/71 loop. Before long the entire City of Austin will be “Downtown Austin”.

    Austin is geographically a very small town for how big the metro area is. I mean what are we 25 square miles? 30?

    It’s actually very interesting that we haven’t seen a Austin/Round Rock metroplex emerge ala Dallas/Fort Worth. I suppose Dell must have fixed that one by making all those ex-Dell employees associate commuting to Round Rock with dead end, soul-sucking jobs. That’s the best I can guess. You’d think we’d have that situation when the biggest employer in town used to be in the next town over.

  2. M1EK (unregistered) on October 12th, 2007 @ 5:10 pm

    I had the same reaction re: transit.

    And “too expensive”? The city is exempt from property taxes, as is the county. Sounds like a load of malarkey to me.

  3. Rantor (unregistered) on October 12th, 2007 @ 5:15 pm

    I do think that permitting branch banking probably had something to do with decentralization. Downtown was choked right up when nearly every bank was located there, direct deposit didn’t exist, and payday for those not paid in cash was once a month for just about everybody, and on the same day, too. It’s funny to hear places referred to as “central Austin” that not that long ago were outside the city limits. I think that our natural direction of growth is toward San Antonio. That corridor is ever busier and more built up. It’s too bad that there wasn’t an airport built somewhere between us and San Antonio and that there’s not a frequent rail passenger service between us, with a stop in San Marcus.

  4. Rantor (unregistered) on October 12th, 2007 @ 5:41 pm

    That “too expensive” stuff makes a person wonder how much the City has received for some of the land that has been aliented from public ownership at extremely low prices and also why the new City Hall couldn’t have been designed to be larger from the beginning, large enough to hold Municipal Court, police administrative offices, and more. I’d go further and wonder why a City Hall containing the police department couldn’t devote its underground parking space to police cruisers and let other municipal workers find their own parking elsewhere downtown at market prices or demonstrate that this is the “walkable city” that our mayor claims it to be.

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