Tuesday, February 21, 2012

McCormick & Schmick's Exits Congress Location; Have You Noticed All the Others?

My wife and I enjoyed going to the downtown McCormick & Schmick's for our anniversary, Valentines Day or other special occasions. It was fun going downtown and the food was great. We loved the hustle and bustle of our great capitol. From 2004 to 2011, our time in Austin, we went there many times.

We just learned though that M&S downtown, at the corner of 4th and Congress has closed. Sad day.

Even sadder though is the fact that M&S isn't alone. Walk down Congress and notice what I noticed last week, that store after store has gone out of business and empty store fronts are now more numerous than operating businesses. I can't name them because I am not the frequent shopper or downtown walker now, but at one time I was, when I worked downtown on fourth and Congress, across from M&S. When I'd walk to meetings I always noticed the stores because I love the buildings up and down Congress, and I liked the businesses that fit their stores to the neat architectural diversity on the main street of our state Capitol.

I don't work downtown anymore and only infrequently get down there for various business meetings. But last week I had the chance to walk from the Starbucks on 6th and Congress to 823 Congress. I just happened to be looking around and started to notice the empty storefronts and I mentioned something to one of colleagues. They hadn't really noticed it, but they weren't at one time a downtown walker, like me.

My point is simply this. Something is going on, and it ain't good. Downtown -- on its main street of Congress just south of the Capitol is dying right now.

Wondering if any other Travis Monitor readers are seeing the same where they live or shop or walk? Please let us know. I sure hope this is an isolated situation. I fear that the Obama economy is slowly starting to hit the once prosperous, vibrant, downtown business corridor, as evidenced by the dearth of downtown store fronts. Say it ain't so.

1 comment:

AndyHogue said...

Though I'd agree that the recession (worsened by the current Administration) has made it hard for any business to stay open, there are probably many other Austin-centric reasons for the demise of downtown. Here are a few off the top of my head:

-The hip factor. It's a hip city, and the hipsters are bringing mommy and daddy's money with them. Businesses raise prices to exploit this ever-growing source of revenue, rental property owners take notice and raise their rent, tax appraisals go up, property becomes more expensive ... ad nauseum.

-Tuition deregulation. This has transformed the culture around UT. It's a more expensive college, now, and it has gone from a beer-and-pizza to a wine-and-cheese campus. This has altered the business climate downtown significantly.

-Condos. Same reasoning as above, but with downtown residents. (And these wine-and-cheesers don't take well to "weird" downtown residents or quirky businesses. They'll even complain about outdoor music.)

-Parking. It's getting harder and harder to just leave your car somewhere. Not only has paying a parking meter become a 5-step process, but 3-hour limits and night/weekend hours have put a clincher on people looking to hop from place to place. It has made traffic a nightmare. (And don't get me started on the buses.)

-Cops. They're drawing our blood, riding horses, hiding in alleys atop motorcycles, and putting up video cameras -- and taking copious notes on our behavior to be stored in a so-called "Fusion Center." (I would imagine this has had an intimidating effect on some, but not all, local businesses.)

-School taxes. AISD is still the top tax when you get your property tax statement in the mail. And it ain't going down.

-Regulations. The City of Austin's a harsh mistress.

-Hobos. The liberals have for a long time made it easy for them to get around and obtain services; but with many longtime Austinites now priced-out of downtown, there's no stable core of watchful citizens to keep an eye on thugs waiting in the wings. The loveable riff-raff that used to inhabit downtown are slowly being replaced by utterly unloveable gang-bangers and out-of-town opportunists.

-Capitol complex security. This affects mostly North Congress Avenue, but you'd better believe tighter restrictions, locked side-doors, and metal detectors have discouraged foot traffic.

And we wonder why Austin's starting to look like Dallas.