A Walk Through Downtown
I was in Boston on Saturday and had the chance to walk along the Freedom Trail
which connects Boston Common to Paul Revere’s house, the Old North Church, and other Revolutionary landmarks. One of the best things about the trail, though, was the experience of walking through the city, twisting and turning along its streets, encountering its neighborhoods, and crossing the Big Dig. We particularly enjoyed exploring the shops in the Italian neighborhood that now surrounds Revere’s house.
While walking through Boston, I thought of what it would be like to take a similiar walk through Austin’s Downtown. At first, the comparison seems silly since Boston has had more than 350 years to build its neighborhoods while Austin has had only slightly more than 150 years, and we have spent the last 50 years tearing down many of our Downtown neighborhoods. Still, it has been said that cities are like coral reefs; they are built over time and are the slow acrretions of millions of individual lives. The challenge and the opportunity that we have before us is to determine what kind of urban legacy we will grant to the future. A city is formed not only from its built environment but also out of how people relate to and interact with that environment. The idea of a historic or cultural walk through Downtown Austin may seem silly now, but that is only because we cannot now envision it. There are many sites, though, that could be linked through such a walk: Republic Square, Brush Square with the O.Henry and Susanna Dickinson houses, the forthcoming Anna Ebberly statue, the Driskoll, Scholtz’s Garden, and, of course, the Capitol, Governor’s Mansion, and old Land Office. The key is to bring these sites together in a way that links them in people’s minds as well as on the ground.