A lot has been said in recent years - make that in the last decade - decrying Austin's tremendous growth and what that is doing to destroy the historic culture of Austin. Less has been said about what is emerging. Open your eyes and look around. A fascinating and unique urban design quality is begining to emerge all around Austin.
Take the decommissioned Seaholm Power Plant. In a recent visit I was amazed at how our city is growing into a walkable, dense, civilized and honestly pleasant place to be. Seaholm now has several stores open, including a cafe, grocery store, fitness studio and some retail. The multi-story residences are already in place and in some cases have been existing for several years. Now that the civil projects such as streets, parks, sidewalks and plazas are completed the whole area is taking on a life of it's own. The connection to the lake, downtown and bike lanes make Seaholm a unique part of Austin.
The urban design for Seaholm is very well done but it's the connection to Austin's history that humanizes it. Of course, there's the repurposed Seaholm Building into offices but look at the image of the plaza created between the retail, high-rise residences and the decommissioned smoke stacks. It makes for a fantastic semi-private urban plaza. Then there are the railroad tracks that bisect the property. The 1930's bridge carrying the inter-city rail casts a shadow over the park and adds a third dimmension to the transit options.
Here's another view of our city from about a mile away from Seaholm. This is one of the urban parks that have changed in the past deacade. The park itself has been around since the early days of Austin however the mid-rise condo towers have been built in the last 5-15 years. Notice how much more dynamic - and useful - the park is. Was it Frederic Law Olmsted who once said "parks are the lungs of the city"?