Last month, TOWERS.net conducted the first of what will hopefully be a series of surveys, querying our readers on topics both silly and extremely silly in an attempt to better understand how Austinites feel about the city’s buildings, neighborhoods, grackles, and more.
We promised to select one lucky respondent to receive a $30 gift card to downtown cafe Forthright, and we’ve already reached out to the winner, but for the time being, let’s take a look at our favorite answers to each question, along with the most frequent responses. Remember, “favorite” doesn’t necessarily mean “we absolutely agree with this,” but the goal here was to express your opinions — and these people certainly accomplished that!
Is there a part of Austin you’ve never visited?
“Native Austinite, had to pull out a map. I have never been in ‘Montopolis.’ The land bounded by ACC Riverside Campus, Riverside Drive, and 183. I have never been to Tech Ridge area east of I-35. I have never been to Creedmore. That’s it.”
“I’ve never been to southeast Austin.”
“The area blinded by Burnet Road, 183, I-35, and whatever highway is on the north, and then north of that too.”
“The northern part of District 7. I live in the Domain, but never have explored the neighborhood to the north and east of the Domain. I’m not sure of the name of this neighborhood either.”
“West Austin behind Camp Mabry.”
Most Common Answers: Montopolis, Tarrytown, Circle C
What’s your favorite area of Austin, and why?
“It has to be downtown. To me, it’s the NYC of the southwest. It never closes! Unfortunately, I don’t get there near as often I would like because traffic and parking suck.”
“Northwest Downtown — the part with all the law offices — because it’s great for biking. Low traffic, roundabouts, quiet, interesting architecture.”
“Clarksville. Close to downtown but still has an old Austin vibe to me. Great little restaurants, cool houses.”
“Lamar Boulevard, from the tippy-top to the southy-south. I believe it to be the best representation of all Austin has to offer — old, new, keeping it weird, and everything in between. I love to make this drive every now and then.”
“Five years ago, I would have said South Lamar or Barton Springs, because that’s where I’ve lived for the past 15 years — or possibly the east side because it was the last bastion that held its own against Austin as we know it. Now, I would say my favorite part of town is Hyde Park because of their ability to preserve their neighborhood, unlike Zilker.”
“This is an unfair question! I really love the Texas State Cemetery because it’s beautiful and there’s a tree to climb on top of a hill from which you can see a good view of the skyline. I also like 2nd Street because it’s narrow, safe for pedestrians, and has Christmas lights year around.”
Most Common Answers: South Austin, Downtown, Clarksville
What’s your least favorite area of Austin, and why?
“Dirty Sixth, for obvious reasons. The city needs to address the homeless population issues and make building owners keep buildings maintained — it just looks trashy.”
“Steiner Ranch. Big, overpriced, cookie-cutter homes. Nothing to walk to. Gates. It’s all terrible.”
“Rainey Street, because how it’s been defiled by developers.”
“South Austin. Little to no large-scale development like at The Domain.”
“The Hope Outdoor Gallery. The first time I went I overheard people talking about how no Austinites live here anymore, and the art is mostly uninspired.”
“I despise any area of Austin where cars, and the infrastructure required to accommodate them, dominate the landscape — so basically anywhere outside of central Austin. I define central Austin as anything east of the Colorado River/Mopac, west of 183, below 183/Mopac to the north, and above Ben White. Even in this central area, there are spots that are car-dominated — but it is far worse outside the core.”
“North Austin. It’s not really Austin. Too much urban sprawl.”
Most Common Answers: The Domain, Rainey Street, “Anywhere north of 183”
What’s your favorite building in Austin, and why?
“The Frost Bank Tower, because from certain angles it looks like the Hindu god Ganesha — an elephant — keeping watch over the city and providing good fortune and removal of obstacles, material and spiritual.”
“The Independent. It screams, ‘This is not your Austin of 1975 or 1985 or 1995, you know, when Liberty Lunch ruled.’ Oh, and all the new housing in West Campus. Anyone who lived there circa 1990 must be pleased to see the transformation.”
“1200 East Sixth Street. Simple, classic, brick main street style, world-class awning and artfully decorated with graffiti and posters.”
“Ever been to the Fairmont? Neither have I. But it looks elegant, doesn’t it?”
“The Frost Bank Tower because of its iconic top. I’m always telling my friends I wish they’d chop it off, add more floors to the building, and put it back so it’s higher than all the new towers.”
“Close call between Norwood Tower and the UT tower. Norwood is just really cool, and has lots of history. UT tower is cool, has lots of history, plus J. Frank Dobie said something to the effect that it was the last erection of an impotent administration.”
Most Common Answers: Frost Bank Tower (overwhelmingly), Texas State Capitol building, The Independent
What’s your least favorite building in Austin, and why?
“The new McCombs b-school addition, because it razed a good burger joint to make more MBA pricks.”
“The Frost Bank building. When the giant nose hair clipper in the sky went up, it started the building of far too many skyscrapers without supporting infrastructure. Parking left downtown, traffic went off the charts, and culture started to die down there. Much of Austin’s weirdness started to wane after that arrived.”
“One American Center. It was hideous Post Modernist schlock when it was new, and it has aged even less well.”
“The Hobby Building. Where do I start? It’s a monument to the worst of post-modern design. A mid-80s embarrassment. A block-sized bloated behemoth lacking any charm or character. It’s the rare building that manages to kill street life on four sides. The one part of the building that was intended to provide even some public amenity is a dead fountain that hasn’t been operational since about 1986 (it was completed in 1985) … It’s easily the worst building in Austin.”
“The William P. Hobby State office building. Looks like a kid made it out of cardboard and cut out windows.”
“The Bank of America tower. Monolithic. Destroys the streetfront flow. No charm.”
“Frost Bank Tower. All the ornamentation on top is ridiculous — not in proportion to its height.”
Most Common Answers: Hobby Building (overwhelmingly), Bank of America Center, Frost Bank Tower
How do you feel about grackles?
“Sky rats. Sic the Aggies on them to figure out how to cut their population by 90 percent. And they are honestly a problem. A hidden problem like cedar trees and other weeds.”
“Love them as long as I’m not parked under a tree at an H-E-B parking lot.”
“Roasted or fried?”
“They have a pretty sheen and it’s amazing to see them gather at major intersections.”
“Overrated. Armadillos are where it’s at.”
“They scare the hell out of my wife and she yearns to own a shotgun just to play sport with them.”
“Grackles are amazing. Cute, gorgeous, often friendly but able to take care of themselves. They live well alone or in groups. They fit into the city and they give Austin its character. Grackles should be the official bird of the city of Austin and our mascot for all sports teams. The ancient Maya worshipped the grackle (I assume) and so should we.”
What’s a question about Austin that you always had, but never found an answer?
“Why does this city keep kicking the can down the road concerning public transportation?”
“Why don’t we want taller buildings in more areas? We don’t need to become NYC, but taller buildings would provide more shade to walk in and could make Austin a more walkable city. Most everyone walks on the south side of the street during the summers, but for some reason Austin seems to love 60 foot buildings and wants to protect natural light into everyone’s building. That heats up the building, which in turn runs up the costs of AC or costs more in materials to buy upgraded glass to keep the heat out.”
“Why are people so in love with Hyde Park?”
“Why are there not more high-rise buildings along Lady Bird Lake, on both sides of the river?”
“Why don’t we openly defy state government?”
“Why the hell is Red River Street between Cesar Chavez and Fourth Street such a disaster? You give me a Home Depot gift card and a six-pack and that sh*t would be fixed by SXSW.”