Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hill Country landfill

Still working like a hamster here, finally catching a spare moment. Last Saturday we went to the Grand Opening of the Hill Country Galleria, a sprawling mass of concrete and chain stores that replaced a lot of undeveloped Hill Country landscape. Doesn't sound like something I'd do? You'd be right, and I only went there to see the South Austin Jug Band, who kicked it all off with a free show. The guys are finally home after a tour of the Netherlands, and a playing in a now legendary sandstorm out at the Joshua Tree Music Festival in the California desert. They have a new record out, and it is a dandy! You can listen to samples on their music page.

The Hill Country Galleria is part of a huge development trend that has completely transformed the Village of Bee Cave (should it now be called "Be Paved"?). There is a music venue out there called The Backyard, and it used to be out in the country. It's big enough for some big-name touring acts, and it was a unique experience. You'd park next to it on a dirt/grass lot, walk in and maybe visit the attached Austin Java for food or refreshments, then take your seat somewhere under the huge trees. Sometimes they made for obstructed views, but they sure were beautiful. We will never forget our favorite show there. It was Yes, and we had somehow landed some great seats. The weather was perfect that night and the view of the trees behind the stage was more awesome than any backdrop they could have come up with. The venue, although not technically in Austin, was Austin-weird. I discovered that Google-maps is still using an old image, so here's an aerial view of this venue and the surrounding area before the change. (EDIT: this view is 180 degrees from the views that follow. The stage faces the highway and backstage is just trees)

Not being able to leave a dollar unturned, the developers have since turned the place into a mass of pavement and "normalcy". Surrounding The Backyard now are things like Lowe's, Best Buy, Michael's, Applebee's, all the typical strip mall inhabitants. They stuck in another music venue adjoining The Backyard, but they are concreted in and none of the new neighbors allow music venue parking on their massive asphalt, so you have to make a vigorous hike way down the road where they have reserved an unlit rocky dirt lot. Just one shopping paradise wasn't enough, so now the area across the street has been turned into a hellish plastic "town" with Dillard's at one end, who cares at the other, and high-end shops in between. I don't think there is even one local business to be found in either complex. Here are before and after aerial shots with The Backyard pointed out for reference.

According to the population sign of this town, there are 656 residents. The new Galleria has a million square feet of shopping, and that doesn't count the older Galleria that surrounds The Backyard. [LINK]

It seems that this kind of development is unstoppable, especially if there are enough people who like this kind of stuff and will shop there... and even live there (that's the next thing in the works -- condos on the grounds. The motto is "Walk in the Woods, Shop in the Square". bullshit. What woods[?], and oh yeah, I hope they like polluted water because this monster is going to be hell on the aquifer). I didn't spend a dime there, and have no reason to ever visit it again -- unless they have more good (free) music. It's just a damned shame.


Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

I despise how all those corporations want to be everywhere we are. It's going to get to the point where you can't throw a rock andn ot hit a Lowe's, Applebees, or Best Buy.

Blueberry said...

This little area has fought off the assimilation better than some others, but corporations and developers are just too powerful -- and there's a certain element of the population (especially away from the heart of town) that COULD live in a mall, they welcome the Wal-marts and Dillard's. They wouldn't mind if Austin turned into a little Houston.

Mando Mama said...

That sure is a damn shame. I guess it shows just how willfulness can drive through even the worst decisions. I can't get over the photographs.

But take heart, when there are tumbleweeds blowing through that mess, and all the Home Despots have been laid off and Applebee's has lost its buzz, somewhere there will still be people having beers and listening to live music.

Ptelea said...

I have to think living in one of these developments would be the absolute worst - sitting on the patio of your expensive loft watching people SHOP!! Of course, we have some of these developments here and they have a very high vacancy rate. They put one in a low-moderate income area with all high-end shops and guess what - businesses are struggling. That is until they can fill up the lofts/condos with higher income folks who might be able to afford to shop there.

I couldn't agree with you more - it's a damned shame.