About a month ago, I spent two weeks in Austin. While there, I dropped more money in the local economy than I realized (until the credit card bills arrived), tried a broad variety of cuisine (ate the best sushi I have ever had), experienced one of the most challenging bike rides of my life, saw some incredible places, and essentially became a temporary Texan.
I wasn’t alone, either. Several colleagues joined me on my adventure, each experiencing Austin in their own way. Farin traveled to San Antonio and saw Texas’ Latino heritage up close. Pepper walked the walk downtown with architects, planners, and preservationists, and saw firsthand Austin’s pressures, challenges, and successes. And Jason returned to his home state and alma mater, where he saw his favorite town through the National Trust’s eyes (and camera lenses).
You too will have a chance to see Austin in your own way when you attend the National Preservation Conference this fall, Oct. 27-30. But before you even arrive, we plan to whet your appetite with plenty of great stories, updates, and information. For instance:
And just wait until you actually get here. Austin is a popular destination and a crossroads for the entertainment industry. It’s host to the famous and extremely influential South By Southwest music and media festival, the Texas Book Festival, Austin City Limits Festival, Austin Film Festival and Conference, and dozens of annual gatherings both mainstream and offbeat.
Even during the nationwide recession, Austin continually ranks in several publications as the number one metropolitan area creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth – a mark of its resilience and creativity. In addition, Austin is consistently ranked among the most affordable cities to visit; as a tourist or a conference attendee, you’ll get more bang for your buck in Austin than in almost any other city.
Austin prides itself on its independent attitude and quirky local flavor, so, not surprisingly, the preservation movement in Austin has charted a unique course. The city was a relative latecomer to the preservation movement, adopting its first historic landmark preservation ordinance in 1974. The designation of individual landmark properties was the only viable preservation tool until a program to enact Local Historic Districts was put on the books in 2004.
The draw of Austin’s vibrant economy and enviable quality of life has contributed to doubling its population every twenty years for the past 100 years. That pace is expected to increase, putting heavy pressure on the city’s historic resources.
Local preservationists work to embrace the thriving Central City commercial and residential development that provides opportunity for the adaptive use of historic buildings which would otherwise languish. And through it all, they staunchly maintain that no great American city has been revitalized by sacrificing its most cherished and significant historic features.
Overall, sustainable growth and heritage protection are co-existing in Austin, and a tremendous pride of place has emerged as the city’s preservation program grows. Come to Austin this fall and see this unique approach for yourself. And until then, keep your eye on the blog for more Austin and Conference updates!