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Thread: Austin, Texas: South Congress Avenue / SoCo - in-your-face wannabe funky

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Austin, Texas: South Congress Avenue / SoCo - in-your-face wannabe funky

    You know it's gotta' be hip, or at least wants to be seen that way, when it has one of those abbreviated and combined nicknames like SoHo. Anyhow, from Wikipedia:

    South Congress or SoCo is a neighborhood located on South Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas.

    South Congress Avenue was first established as a transportation route in the early 1850s The area became revitalized during the 1980s and 1990s. It also become a nationally known shopping district called SoCo.

    The shopping district contains numerous shops, restaurants, and music venues.There is a square featuring a number of food trucks serving tacos, falafel, cupcakes, and more. Many businesses remain open later in the night on the first Thursday of each month as the area evokes a festive mood.
    SoCo and The Drag (Guadalupe Street bordering the University of Texas) are, in my opinion, Austin's only real urban-feeling pedestrian-oriented neighborhood commercial centers. Even then, it's a stretch.



















































































































































    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    I have a hard time considering one-story buildings along a four-lane thoroughfare to be urban, regardless of how "funky" the place is.

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    Cyburbian eightiesfan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    I have a hard time considering one-story buildings along a four-lane thoroughfare to be urban, regardless of how "funky" the place is.
    My thoughts as well. And the "funky" screams trying too hard to be funky. I've always tried to keep an open mind about Austin which is tough considering how over-hyped it's become, but it just doesn't seem to do anything for me.

    Thanks for sharing the pics.
    Regrets, I've had a few; But then again, too many to mention.

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    I have a hard time considering one-story buildings along a four-lane thoroughfare to be urban, regardless of how "funky" the place is.
    Actually, it was built for six lanes with parallel parking. The diagonal parking and bike lanes bump it down to four. Yes, traffic on the street is rather fast; it's not a place where you can safely jaywalk. Considering the street width and traffic speed, I'm surprised there's as much pedestrian activity as there is. Still, neighborhoods with commercial districts lined by sidewalk-fronting buildings are very rare here, so in comparison to the streets lined with funky vehicle-oriented strip plazas (Lamar Boulevard, South Lamar Boulevard, North Loop, Burnet Road, West 35th Street, etc), it's "urban".
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    My what a big sign! Anyone compensating for something?

    Guess I'm feeling a tad churlish today. Let me be devil's advocate for a minute.....why do you think Austin's hipster scene is of the faux wannabe variety, as opposed to the 'genuine article' found in SoCal? What makes Austin phony and California real or authentic? I mean, aren't the artsy-fartsy hipsters in both locales equally affected?
    Last edited by Maister; 08 Sep 2009 at 2:00 PM.

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    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    South Congress is Austin's funkier version of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, at least as far urbanity goes. Car-centered, but looks good and is a fun destination.

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    Cyburbian eightiesfan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Guess I'm feeling a tad churlish today. Let me be devil's advocate for a minute.....why do you think Austin's hipster scene is of the faux wannabe variety, as opposed to the 'genuine article' found in SoCal? What makes Austin phony and California real or authentic? I mean, aren't the artsy-fartsy hipsters in both locales equally affected?
    I'm not sure who mentioned SoCal hipsters, but as far as I'm concerned they are the same everywhere, a modern walking version of the bubonic plague. None of them are authentic, if they were they wouldn't be "hipsters".
    Regrets, I've had a few; But then again, too many to mention.

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    South Congress is Austin's funkier version of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, at least as far urbanity goes. Car-centered, but looks good and is a fun destination.
    I don't even think South Congress comes close to Country Club Plaza. CCP is a large planned development consisting of tens of blocks with architecturally coordinated multi-story buildings; it's basically a massive mixed-use lifestyle center that is integrated into the city's grid.

    SoCo is a short strip of mostly indie (and local chain) boutiques and restaurants, with the odd established business (a barbershop, Allens Boots), and self-consciously hip food trailers on vacant lots (a very South Austin phenomenon; north of the Colorado River, it's mostly scattered taco trucks).

    Let's compare: Country Club Plaza.











    SoCo









    An Austin equivalent to CCP would be ... oh, three or four Domains, with mid-rise apartment, office and hotel towers, placed about where The Drag is located.

    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post


    My what a big sign! Anyone compensating for something?
    That sign is something of a local landmark. I remember that in the 1970s and 1980s, when there were still many 1940s-era signs gracing commercial strips, many had that ... uhh, shape. I also remember others that looked like ... oh, something like this, only with rounded corners.

    Code:
    |
    |-----------------------+
    |                        \
    | THE OLD VILLAGE MOTEL   |
    |                        /
    |        +--------------+
    |        |
    |vacancy /
    |-------/
    |
    |
    Those MUST have been far more innocent times.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I guess they are thier own brand of hipsters because they like to eat from old decrepit campers. I don't think I've seen that anywhere outside of a KOA.

    Just wondering... Does Austin have a sign ordinance? Some of them seem a bit excessive.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Just wondering... Does Austin have a sign ordinance? Some of them seem a bit excessive.
    Austin's unwritten sign ordinance is something like "Freestanding signs must be evocative of spectacular-style and Googie-style signage of the 1950s and 1960s." There's a lot of new retro-styled signage in Austin; far more than what I've seen in other cities.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    I have a hard time considering one-story buildings along a four-lane thoroughfare to be urban, regardless of how "funky" the place is.
    My sentiments exactly. It seems like a lot of what you'll find in a lot of northern cities' inner-ring suburbs along major thoroughfares as far as building styles. That is, aside from the trailers, signage, and graffiti giving it a more "funky" atmosphere.

    It looks like the are could stand an infrastructure update, as well. That streetscape looks very dated.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

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    Cyburbian Howard Roark's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post


    My what a big sign! Anyone compensating for something?

    Guess I'm feeling a tad churlish today. Let me be devil's advocate for a minute.....why do you think Austin's hipster scene is of the faux wannabe variety, as opposed to the 'genuine article' found in SoCal? What makes Austin phony and California real or authentic? I mean, aren't the artsy-fartsy hipsters in both locales equally affected?
    Hip is not a function of location, but hipster wannabes are drawn to location.

    From HR's unified theory of hip
    She has been a bad girl, she is like a chemical, though you try and stop it she is like a narcotic.

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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    I have a hard time considering one-story buildings along a four-lane thoroughfare to be urban, regardless of how "funky" the place is.
    Perhaps, but that's pretty par for the course in much of the west. South Congress (which, wen I lived in Austin in the mid-90's was still considered a little "sketchy") looks a lot like Nob Hill, Albuquerque's premiere pedestrian-oriented, funky hip urban zone.

    Indeed, when I first moved to Albuquerque and started raising kids, I joked that this is the one story city. Just finding stairs for my kid to climb was an effort. There certainly weren't any in my house at the time, or in any of the friends'...

    I think for much of the west that grew out on the 1920s through 50s, "streetcar suburbs" are about as urban as our commercial zones get.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    Perhaps, but that's pretty par for the course in much of the west. South Congress (which, wen I lived in Austin in the mid-90's was still considered a little "sketchy") looks a lot like Nob Hill, Albuquerque's premiere pedestrian-oriented, funky hip urban zone.

    Indeed, when I first moved to Albuquerque and started raising kids, I joked that this is the one story city. Just finding stairs for my kid to climb was an effort. There certainly weren't any in my house at the time, or in any of the friends'...

    I think for much of the west that grew out on the 1920s through 50s, "streetcar suburbs" are about as urban as our commercial zones get.
    It seems there's a lot of single family residential in this area (SoCo)- is it a desirable neighborhood given its proximity to downtown, or does Austin suffer from L.A. syndrome where nobody wants to live anywhere near downtown? Well, to be fair I've heard downtown L.A. is turning for the better, but you get my point..

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    It seems there's a lot of single family residential in this area (SoCo)- is it a desirable neighborhood given its proximity to downtown, or does Austin suffer from L.A. syndrome where nobody wants to live anywhere near downtown? Well, to be fair I've heard downtown L.A. is turning for the better, but you get my point..
    In Austin, the closer to downtown, the more expensive the real estate and rents will be. Downtown is seen as a very desirable area. The neighborhood has a lot of small single family houses (1920s through the 1950s), an increasing number of PoMo-style houses and townhouses, and some new loft-style apartment complexes (one complex advertising itself as being "so hip" ). Those small houses sell for $300 to $400 per square foot.

    There's a few exceptions to the "real estate is more expensive the closer one gets to downtown" rule; generally areas developed from the 1960s and later that have a large minority population. One example: if you head north from downtown, real estate prices remain fairly high until you reach the Rundberg neighborhood, where they plunge. (1970s-era development, formerly middle-class, now predominantly working-class black, Mexican immigrant and blue collar Anglo). North of Rundberg, prices rise again.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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