Learning from other cities: Austin, Texas

October 11, 2006 4 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Austin's 6th Street Entertainment District serves as an example of what Bay Street could become with aggressive marketing from the JEDC and smart planning.

Austin is a communtiy that sets trends, rather than react to them.  During the past few decades its been a successful leader in addressing  many of the urban issues we face today.  From commuter rail, BRT and establishing successful entertainment districts, to addressing panhandling, downtown revitalization and attracting high paying / high skill jobs, this community has pulled out all the stops to improve its quality of life offerings.  In short, its a place we can look at as an example in our effort to move Jacksonville to the next level.


Austin Population 2005: 690,252 (City); 1,452,529 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1837)

Jacksonville Pop. 2005: 782,623 (City); 1,248,371 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1940: Jacksonville (173,000); Austin (87,930)

Top private employers:

Austin: 1. Dell (24,600), 2. Seton Healthcare (9,466), 3. IBM (6,200), 4. Freescale Semiconductor (5,600), 5. St. David's Healthcare (5,000)

Jacksonville: 1. Blue Cross Blue Shield (8,082), 2. Publix (7,106), 3. Baptist Health (6,928), 4. Winn-Dixie Stores (6,539), 5. Wal-Mart Stores (6,000).

6th Street Entertainment District

On weekend nights, as many as 20,000 people pack this seven block section of Sixth Street, that’s known around the world as one of the premier live music entertainment districts in the US. With over 30 bars and 12 restaurants, the district got its start in the late 1970’s by placing an emphasis on live original music. Focusing on our own music scene (which is alive and kicking, but not promoted by the CVB or DVI) could be a sure-fire way to stimulate entertainment and dining growth on Bay Street, which has been set up to be downtown’s entertainment district. This can be accomplished with city agencies, such as JEDC, actively going out and recruiting unique live music venues to consider opening along Bay to join the few establishments already in place.

For more information: www.6street.com

6th Street entertainment district with downtown's new tallest, the Frost Bank, in the background.

The Chuggin Monkey: Unique signage is an important element in the creation of an urban entertainment district.  This is something that should be possibly pre-approved and required for the Bay Street Town Center.

Another important element of entertainment districts is night lighting, as shown in this 6th Street photograph.

In the quest to make downtown more user friendly, our parking situation must be properly addressed.  Proper garage signage is something that would definately benefit our core and help resolve our parking problems.  Best of all, its a solution that doesn't require a parking study or consultant.  Just purchase a few "P's" and install them on city owned garages.

Austin's meters provide a great example of where we need to get.  Downtown meters in Austin accept all coins (excluding pennies), have two hour time limits and are easy to read without having a drive have to get outside of the car to know if they can park there or not.

We could use a few of these signs ourselves.

We're not the only city with a serious homeless situation downtown.  The major difference between Austin and our downtown, is city officials don't let the homeless problems decide how downtown should developed or promoted.  For example, Austin's Dillo (the downtown trolley buse) advertises free rides to pedestrians.  On the other hand, JTA won't put up free signs on our trolleys (even though they are free) because they're afraid that the homeless may camp out on the buses.  Thus nobody knows much about the service resulting in it being under-utilized.

Austin's Congress Avenue connects the southern suburbs to downtown.  The Texas State Capitol can be seen in the distance.

Although Congress Avenue is a six lane street, diagonal parking is included on both sides.  Even though our streets aren't as wide, we should take advantage of all spots that can accomodate additional diagonal or parallel parking.

The Driskell Hotel was constructed in 1872.  During the late 60's is was slated for demolition.  However, the effort to destroy the structure was defeated by concerned citizens and today it still serves as a boutique hotel.

The Littlefield Building, constructed in 1910, was once the tallest building between San Fransico and New Orleans.

Lavaca Street connects downtown with the University of Texas.

Urban infill in downtown Austin.

Austin's planned $90 million / 32 mile urban commuter rail line will use these existing freight tracks to access the new convention center and Hilton hotel shown in this photograph.  Austin's convention center features over 400,000sf of space, as well as restaurants such as Flemings, PF Changs and Houlihans.

Learning From other cities: Downtown Texas Series

Part 1: Houston - http://www.metrojacksonville.com/content/view/196/57/

Part 2: San Antonio - http://www.metrojacksonville.com/content/view/205/57/

Part 3: Austin -

Part 4: Dallas / Fort Worth (Coming Soon)