Downtown Austin is the central business district of Austin, Texas. Downtown is located on the north bank of the Colorado River. The approximate borders of Downtown include Lamar Boulevard to the west, 11th Street and sometimes Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and the University of Texas at Austin to the north, Interstate 35 to the east, and Lady Bird Lake to the south.
It is where the city's highrise buildings are located, as well as being the center of government and business for the region. Downtown Austin is currently experiencing a building boom, with many condos & high rise towers being built.
The story of Downtown Austin began with the Republic of Texas and President Mirabeau B. Lamar in the 1830s. Lamar tapped Edwin Waller to direct the planning and construction of the new town. Waller chose a site on a bluff above the Colorado River, nestled between Shoal Creek to the west and Waller Creek to the east. Waller laid the new city in a simple grid pattern on a 640-acre (or one square-mile plot) with 14 blocks running in both directions. Much of this original design is still intact in downtown Austin today.
One grand avenue, which Lamar named "Congress," cut through the center of town from Capitol Square down to the Colorado River. The streets running north-south (paralleling Congress) were named for Texas rivers with their order of placement matching the order of rivers on the Texas state map. The east-west streets were named after trees native to the region, despite the fact that Waller had recommended using numbers (they were eventually changed to numbers in 1884). The city's perimeters stretched north to south from the river at 1st Street to 15th Street, and from East Avenue (now Interstate 35) to West Avenue.
Downtown districts 
Congress Avenue 
Edwin Waller, the first mayor of Austin, designed Congress Avenue to be Austin's most prominent street. Planned as the widest street in the original 1839 Austin plan, the 120-foot wide Congress Avenue initially ran from the Colorado River north to the State Capitol. Not coincidentally, Congress was the most important street in Austin city life during the 19th century. Early structures along Congress Avenue included government buildings, hotels, saloons, retail stores and restaurants. By the late 1840s "The Avenue" formed a well-established business district. The mid-1870s introduced gaslight illumination and mule-driven streetcars as well as construction of a new Travis County courthouse at Eleventh Street.
Stretching from First Street north to Eleventh Street, the Congress Avenue Historic District was created on August 11, 1978. Stylistically, the dominating structures of significance reflected general Victorian form and detailing, tempered by local materials and building techniques. Notable structures along Congress Avenue north of the Colorado include the Texas State Capitol, Paramount Theatre, the Southwestern Telegraph and Telephone Building, Gethsemane Lutheran Church and the Old Bakery.
Sixth Street 
Sixth Street is a historic street and entertainment district in Downtown Austin. Sixth Street itself stretches from Mopac Expressway in Old West Austin across to Interstate 35 and beyond. The nine-block area of East Sixth Street roughly between Lavaca Street to the west and Interstate 35 to the east is recognized as the Sixth Street Historic District and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on December 30, 1975.
The area around nearby 4th Street and 6th Street has been a major entertainment district since the 1970s. Many bars, clubs, music venues, and shopping destinations are located on E. 6th Street between Congress Avenue and Interstate 35 and many offer live music at one time or another during the week. Traffic is generally blocked on E. 6th Street and most crossroads from I-35 to Brazos Street on weekend evenings, and football home games (depending on pedestrian traffic), as well as holidays and special events to allow the crowds to walk unfettered to the many venues that line the street. E. Sixth Street plays host to a wide variety of events each year, ranging from music and film festivals (such as South by Southwest) to biker rallies (such as The Republic of Texas Biker Rally) and the Pecan Street Festival. The area of Sixth Street west of Lavaca is known as the West 6th Street District. Recently, there has been a growing movement to develop this area as an entertainment district of its own, geared toward the live music crowd.
Second Street District 
Situated north of Lady Bird Lake, the six-block Second Street District has swiftly become one of Austin’s most popular food and shopping districts. The district, bordered by Colorado and San Antonio Streets, is chockablock with boutiques, coffeehouses, wine bars and design stores and is anchored by a mixed-use development across from City Hall. It contains is a 36-story W Austin Hotel and Residences, which opened in late 2010, and the state-of-the-art Moody Theater, the new home of the iconic PBS music series Austin City Limits.
In 1997, it was apparent that downtown retail was on the verge of disappearing and downtown, in general, was on a decline. West Second Street had become a blighted area which was home to a number of abandoned warehouses and a lumberyard that the City converted into temporary offices and a City Council Chamber. The city embraced the idea a mixed-use district, and by the mid-2000s (decade) all six blocks would be mixed-use buildings with 168,000 square feet of street-level retail.
Rainey Street 
The Rainey Street Historic District is a community positioned near Lady Bird Lake and Interstate 35 in a southeastern pocket of downtown. The situation at Rainey Street is unique in that the area was once a sleepy residential street, albeit nestled right next to downtown, was rezoned as part of Austin's central business district in 2004. The hope at the time was to incentivize development near the Austin Convention Center and the since-built Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. But while grander development has stalled, bars and eateries have flocked to Rainey, since CBD zoning enables traffic-heavy cocktail bar or restaurant use without any additional zoning request. As such, old bungalows have been fixed up and turned into bars and cocktail lounges with ample backyards and porches.
West End/Market District 
The West End or Market District of Austin is located in the northwest section of Downtown Austin, just north of the Seaholm District and to the west of the Warehouse District.
Seaholm District 
The Seaholm District is a formerly industrial section of southwest downtown Austin that the city wants to transform into a vibrant urban neighborhood. The city of Austin has designated the area from Lady Bird Lake to 5th Street and from Lamar Boulevard to San Antonio Street as the Seaholm District. At the core of the district is the decommissioned Seaholm Power Plant, which will be redeveloped into a landmark residential and retail destination. After several years of delays and false starts due in part to a recession that dried up financing for development, construction is expected to start on redevelopment projects at the former Seaholm Power Plant and the site of the former Green Water Treatment Plant east of Seaholm in 2012. Austin-based Southwest Strategies Group, the project's lead developer, announced plans to begin work on the 450,000 square feet of development to be built on the 7.8 acre site. The projects will transform the decommissioned plants on downtown's southwestern edge into lively hubs with shops, hotels, condominiums, apartments and other development.
Bremond Block Historic District 
The Bremond Block Historic District is a collection of eleven historic homes located in the northwest corner of downtown, constructed from the 1850s to 1910. The block was added to National Register of Historic Places in 1970, and is considered one of the few remaining upper-class Victorian neighborhoods of the middle to late 19th century in Texas. Six of these houses were built or expanded for members of the families of brothers Eugene and John Bremond, who were prominent in late-19th-century Austin social, merchandising, and banking circles. They are located within the square block bordered by West Seventh, West Eighth, Guadalupe, and San Antonio streets. The district also includes several houses on the west side of San Antonio and the south side of West Seventh, at least three of which were built or altered by the North family.
Judges Hill 
Judges Hill is a largely residential neighborhood is located north of the central business district of downtown Austin on the eastern bluff overlooking Pease Park, bordered by Rio Grande Street, 15th Street, Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd and Lamar Blvd. In 1851, Elijah Sterling Clack Robertson built the first home in present-day Judges Hill near the corner of 18th and San Gabriel. Although the house was subsequently demolished in 1966. Judge Robertson was the first among the neighborhood resident judges and attorneys who earned the area the name of Judges Hill. The area includes many historically designated properties from the late 19th century, some significant mid-century modern design, student communities and limited multi-family housing.
Tallest buildings 
Local government 
The city hall is located in Downtown Austin and is the administrative office of Austin. Originally built in 1871, the city hall was demolished and rebuilt multiple times before the current one was built in November 2004. The current city hall costed $55.6 million to build and contains a total of 7 stories, of which 3 are underground. Within the building, city council meetings take place in the council chambers. The city council, including the mayor, are voted by Austin's residents and serve 3-year terms.
County government 
State government 
Downtown Austin is dominated by the Texas State Capitol and associated government buildings.
The University of Texas System is headquartered in Downtown Austin. O. Henry Hall, the main headquarters, was originally a federal courthouse and post office. The Thomas J. Rusk State Office Building is located in Downtown Austin. It includes the Texas State University System headquarters.
Federal government 
Diplomatic missions 
Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority provides public transportation services, including bus, paratransit and since 2010, commuter rail services to Downtown Austin. The Downtown Capital Metrorail is located near the Austin Convention Center on Fourth Street, between Neches and Trinity; the station is outside of the Austin Convention Center.
Major employers in Downtown Austin include the corporate headquarters and flagship store of Whole Foods Market and GSD&M Idea City. Texas Monthly, a magazine, has its headquarters in Downtown Austin. Schlotzsky's has its headquarters in the 301 Congress Avenue building in Downtown Austin. The Texas Observer, a magazine, has its headquarters in Downtown Austin. Gowalla also has its headquarters there.
Colleges and universities 
Austin Community College operates the Rio Grande Campus in Downtown.
Primary and secondary schools 
Austin Independent School District operates area public schools. The zoned schools are located outside of Downtown. All residents south of 15th Street are zoned to Mathews Elementary School, O. Henry Middle School, and Austin High School. Some residents north of 15th Street are zoned to Lee Elementary School, Kealing Middle School, and McCallum High School. Other residents are zoned to Bryker Woods Elementary School, O. Henry Middle School, and Austin High School. In addition, Pease Elementary School is located in Downtown Austin.
Pease was built in 1876. Mathews was built in 1916. Bryker Woods and Lee were built in 1939. McCallum and O. Henry were built in 1953. The current Austin High School campus opened in 1975.
Arts and culture 
The Paramount Theater is an Austin cultural icons. Built and completed in 1915, it was originally made for vaudeville. Over the years, as movies became the leading form of entertainment, the theater was remodeled with upholstered chairs and a state-of-the-art sound system. The theater would nearly close in the 1960s as people made the move from theaters to television. However, the building would be restored before closing, leading the Paramount Theater to avoid demolition. Today, the theater continues to operate, viewing popular movies.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Downtown Austin, Texas|
The former Consulate-General of Mexico in Austin
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