Downtown revitalization and regional development : the case of Austin, Texas




Smedley, Webb Levering

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The centers of our cities remain, despite nearly a century of suburbanization, the symbolic and actual centers of our civilization. Like the heart of a body, they cannot be examined in isolation, for clogging of an artery can cause death as easily as a direct stab at the heart. It is with this broader public discussion in mind that this thesis on downtown revitalization is written. While it is an examination of the ongoing process of downtown redevelopment in Austin, it does not attempt to avoid grappling with broader questions regarding the direction of our society. It should be seen as a contribution to the growing body of citizen and government literature on Austin's development. It is intended to do this on several levels: (1) By offering some history and analysis of the motives and interests involved in the process of development; and (2) by attempting to articulate a set of goals and strategies somewhat different from those of recent planning documents for the area. To some readers, these goals and strategies may appear radical at cursory reading. They are, however, presented in light of the very real constraints imposed by our economic system, yet with frank discussion of how these constraints must be altered in the interest of both democracy and rational development. Finally, it should be noted that the ideas in this study are not all original. This study was not conducted simply to present yet another glorious plan for the downtown. Rather, it is hoped that it will contribute to the reconciliation of differences between various groups and individuals regarding downtown. Hopefully it will therefore aid in the process of consensus building amongst groups previously marginal to the planning process which affects them all. This consensus building is prerequisite to the development of an alternative program of revitalization to those of the immediate past