Texas Legislature Accidentally Fosters Progressive Development

A Satirical Look At the Capitol Complex

Screen shot 2015-09-14 at 5.44.50 PMFacing increased pressures to both govern the state and appease constituents demanding reductions in the size and costs of state government, the Republican-controlled Texas Senate and House were able to find little agreement on any truly helpful bills facings Texas’ crises in healthcare, schools, and more in this past session.

One bill, however, garnered bipartisan support and has recently come to light. HB 911 was written to secure the private redevelopment of the acres of surface parking lots and aging state office buildings. “This bill started as a gift to some large real estate developer donor,” says one Watch Dog group. GOP leaders accepted an amendment requiring any new development to be designated as a retirement community, and off-record sources confided that this would surely mean all those buying into the new development would be “fellow Republicans.” But a second amendment by the Austin delegation requiring any development built on the Capitol Complex to be defined as an “age in place” community ensures that the Capital Complex could be transformed into a dense, walkable development connecting the dense, walkable downtown area with the equally dense and walkable UT campus area.

Most real estate and development experts agree the “age in place” concept will require a great variety and pricing of residential units, making it attractive and affordable to people retiring in surrounding neighborhoods. But it will also mean better walkability and connection to transit, as this type of development also strives to keep seniors activity and health later in their lives.

Rather than continuing as an isolated state government compound with 20,000 people shipping in every morning, leaving and returning for lunch, and then leaving it desolated every afternoon, the Capital Complex now has a chance to become seamlessly connected and dynamically interactive with the redevelopment already underway just north of the Campus: the new Teaching Hospital and Innovation District and West Campus development, where students have so many options it doesn’t make sense for them to own, much less warehouse a car.

The Capital Complex can also become a more integrated part of the dynamic fabric of the Central Business District to the south. Over the last decade, downtown has become much more than office space for state lobbyists. It is the single largest economic engine in this region and one of the most attractive places to work in the country, because it is a great mix of different industries, residents, culture, and entertainment.

While HB 911 may have started off as a sop to developers, it may improve our region’s affordability and transportation. As Rick Perry would say, “oops.” Just think what might have happened if the Texas Lege hadn’t accidently done all this good.

This is Movability staff’s homage to the Onion and its humorous vision of the world. We only hope you find this spoof as amusing as we did when we wrote it.

Image via Creative Commons

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