Austin Contrarian discovered a very interesting report on “job sprawl” in major metropolitan areas. The report looks at 98 major metropolitan areas and tracks job decentralization — the increasing percentage of jobs located more than 3 miles from the urban core. According to the report, 95 of 98 cities, including Austin, saw the percentage of jobs located outside of the urban core increase.
This trend is no surprise. As cities grow, it’s easier to add jobs to newly developed areas than to the previously developed urban core. More alarming, however, is that quite a few metropolitan areas actually lost jobs in their urban core during this period — a trend which shows the urban deterioration of many metropolitan areas. On this list were Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio with absolute job losses of 17,683 (a 6.5% decrease), 19,356 jobs (a 7.8% decrease), and 2,655 jobs (a 2.6% decrease) respectively.
While Austin saw the percent of jobs located in the urban core slide from 27.8% to 24.4% between 1998 and 2006, the City actually added jobs to its urban core. During the period, Austin’s urban core added 16,400 jobs, an amazing 12.6% increase. With 24.4% of jobs located in the core, Austin is far ahead of the average of 19.6% across all metropolitan areas.
What makes Austin different? First, in addition to a mostly-commercial downtown, the City has the University of Texas and most State government workers located well within 3 miles of the core. During the period covered in the report, a significant amount of office space was added downtown with the construction of the Frost Bank Tower, City Hall, CSC, and 300 West 6th Street to name a few.
Looking forward, the next decade may not show the same trend. With minimal downtown office construction planned, most of today’s growth is occurring outside of Austin’s urban core. Condo development may reverse this trend; if new projects bring residents downtown to live, retail and office capacity may not be far behind.