A proposal for downtown Austin from the 1970s

A 1976 plan called for trees, plazas, signs, arcades, courtyards and decorative stars for Congress Avenue.


Few Austinites have cultivated downtown real estate, development and urban planning contacts as meticulously as Jude Galligan, whose blog, Towers, edited by James Rambin, regularly informs us about the past, present and future of downtown Austin.

It was Rambin who recently uncovered an article published in the American-Statesman in 1976 about a proposal to modify Congress Avenue. The plan was put together by John Andrew Gallery, who was then dean of the University of Texas School of Architecture.

Now, many designers and urban planners have been attracted to the city’s wide main street. In fact, the city and the Downtown Austin Alliance are studying more possible changes.

Dean Gallery’s prescient proposal, made with assistant professor Leslie Gallery, suggested limiting the height of future buildings and tailoring them to the older ones. They liked the idea of courtyards, plazas and arcades for shops behind the street line. Most importantly, they recommended the planting of trees, which came about two years later, according to former Mayor Lee Cook.

Imagine Congress Avenue without those trees and the spacious granite sidewalks. Cook rightly claims that move sparked the revival of downtown.

Rambin contacted Gallery where he lives in Philadelphia and — bingo! — received high-resolution copies of the original visuals.

“Man, this thing is quintessentially 1970s,” Rambin writes. “Right down to the header set in Eurostile Bold Extended, essentially typographic shorthand for ‘this is the future.’”

While several of Gallery’s proposals came to pass, two things were best left on the drawing board: plans to paint red, white and blue stars at the center of every intersection and a long, connected band of elevated signs along the curb.

Rambin: “I can’t imagine getting anyone excited in 2017 about making Congress Avenue look like a strip mall.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

BREAKING: 2 dead after crash in eastern Travis County
BREAKING: 2 dead after crash in eastern Travis County

A man in his 60s and a man in his 30s are dead after a crash involving two vehicles in eastern Travis County, Austin-Travis County EMS said Wednesday evening.  Medics responded at 8:39 p.m. to the crash at the 18000 block of FM 969. The victims were pronounced dead on scene, EMS said.  No other people were involved, EMS said. It was...
Abbott blames Straus for all that the special session didn’t get done
Abbott blames Straus for all that the special session didn’t get done

Gov. Greg Abbott only got about half of what he asked for out of the Legislature’s special session, and the day after it abruptly ended, without even sending him a bill on his top priority of property tax reform, he laid the blame for the session’s shortcomings squarely on House Speaker Joe Straus. Asked by host Bob Frantz on KTRH radio...
Efforts underway in large Texas cities to remove Confederate monuments
Efforts underway in large Texas cities to remove Confederate monuments

As Austin officials start an effort to change the name of Robert E. Lee Road in South Austin, similar efforts are underway to remove symbols of the Confederacy in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio in the wake of last weekend’s deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. But “tearing down” those symbols won’t change...
Man busted trying to bring pot, meth on airplane, police say

AUSTIN AIRPORT Police: Man tried to bring pot, meth on airplane Austin police arrested a man on Monday at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport for attempting to pass through airport security with a bag of weed hidden in his sock, according to an arrest affidavit filed on Wednesday. The document said a Transportation Security Agency officer spotted...
Swim center: Man charged with child porn hid camera in locker room
Swim center: Man charged with child porn hid camera in locker room

A man facing child pornography charges in Hays County might have installed a hidden camera in the girls’ locker room of a Cedar Park swim lessons center, company owners told patrons in a recent letter. Kenneth Lee Briggs, a former maintenance employee at Nitro Swimming at 1310 Toro Grande Blvd. in Cedar Park, is currently being held in the Hays...
More Stories