But beyond the glow of the W's show room floor and the silk tunic society, I can't imagine Austin being improved by such improvements. Perhaps it's just my 78704 roots, before the Barton Springs Road trailer parks were cool, but old Austin lives in its craggy concrete; the old bricked bones of 6th Street rising up through trodden asphalt. Congress Avenue's granite sidewalk pavers act as the red carpet leading up to the Capitol building -- once at an Obama rally I discovered the word "PEACE" scrawled into the concrete on 11th and Brazos. The Stairs of Doom on the corner of 4th and Colorado act as the ultimate field sobriety test for anyone wearing more than 2-inch heels or more than two drinks into their night. Fanning off of a wobbly concrete sidewalk big enough for passerbys and late-night pizza fans sitting outside the Roppolo's cart -- La Condessa wouldn't dream of letting these schleps through her doors. Alleyways and parking lots, mashed together by time and erosion, sometimes contain musicians drumming on empty paint buckets or tin cans. The homeless congregate on street corners in growing numbers, dotting Wooldridge Square like cattle grazing in an urban field. They've answered your calls for density.
The 2nd Street District, Kate Spade-quaint and suitable for the condo-dwellers, has its place. For the rest of Austin, it's hardly affordable, hardly a necessity (there's never been a time I needed to buy snowboarding gear in downtown Austin) and hardly representative of the majority of Austin. And while paving over the grime and gunk of downtown might bring a few boutique furniture stores to the area, the true grooming of Austin's downtown streets needs to start with addressing affordability and homelessness -- two issues which, increasingly, go hand in manicured hand.