At the end of 2018, we asked Austinites to tell us where they considered to be the “heart” of downtown Austin — a simple-sounding question that ended up generating a pretty wide range of responses.
Still, even though we got some interesting takes, the survey ended up confirming our suspicions about what part of downtown Austinites would probably choose the most — by a landslide, the answer was the intersection of Sixth Street and Congress Avenue, smack dab in the middle of the downtown grid.
Austin, here’s your heart — by popular demand, it’s at Sixth Street and Congress Avenue.
That option received an overwhelming 25 votes, five times as many as the second most popular option, Republic Square, with five votes. Lady Bird Lake took third place with four votes, and we’ll allow it even though that stretches the “downtown” definition a little.
Though we were surprised by the number of votes in its favor, we knew Sixth and Congress would be a popular option — but the far more unexpected result of this survey is the lack of enthusiasm for another location we thought would be popular, the Texas State Capitol and its grounds. The Capitol only received a pathetic three votes, placing it neck-and-neck with options like Second Street and Congress Avenue, the Congress Avenue Bridge, and City Hall.
Even beyond the vote totals, it’s obvious many Austinites have a nuanced view on this subject. Here are some of our favorite responses:
The “100% corner” is still 6th and Congress. Republic Square may be more of a “lung,” and potentially the heart of the southwest quadrant of downtown (when cafe opens and the blocks north and south are developed). Brush Square and plaza can be the same for the southeast quadrants. The heart of downtown is on Congress Avenue, south of the Capitol. Sixth Street is one of only two streets that connect completely across downtown and into East and West Austin. The other is Cesar Chavez Street, but Chavez is on the edge of downtown. Second Street has certainly developed, purposefully, as a major pedestrian street in downtown, but is not the vital artery that is Sixth, and dead-ends at the Convention Center and Seaholm. So, to sum up, the heart is on Congress Avenue, particularly between Fourth and Eighth, with the “heart of hearts” at Sixth Street.
Depends on who you are asking. For business, it’s Sixth & Congress. For non-Austin residents, it’s the Capitol. For Gen X it’s Sixth Street. For Millennials, it’s Rainey Street. For Gen Z, it’s the shores of Lady Bird Lake. For average Austinites who live life pretty exclusively in the ‘burbs, it’s Congress Avenue.
Westlake. Because money.
I think people will answer differently based on when they moved here. I still think of Sixth and Congress as the ‘heart’ because when I arrived in ’99 the layout and foot traffic density was much different than now. My guess is that a lot of newer arrivals would place the ‘heart’ a little south and to the west, following the growth. I did notice recently that the Fourth and Congress (Frost Bank Tower) area seems to be a pretty busy cross-section, especially with the metro station / convention center nearby.
I’ve always considered it to be UT Austin. When I grew up here, there was always more to do on campus than downtown.
I think the current heart of downtown is probably Sixth and Congress – it’s where the two main aspects of the city really come together: music and being the state capital. However, I think the future heart of downtown Austin is Republic Square. It’s a great centralized location, where you can just hang out and eventually have a beer. Once everything around it is finished it will be super cool. It is also a reasonable distance to everything – Lady Bird Lake, the new Central Library, Congress Avenue – the perfect place for a heart!
And there you have it — in terms of Austin’s heart and where to find it, the Capitol is out, Sixth and Congress is in, and Republic Square isn’t far behind. That last guy definitely has a point about the beer.
Header image: A “pocket patio” designed by landscape architecture firm dwg. located at Royal Blue Grocery near the intersection of Sixth Street and Congress Avenue in downtown Austin — the place most Austinites consider to be the ‘heart’ of the city. Image: dwg. / Adam Barbe