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History in Motion: See How the Austin Skyline Changed over the Past 130 Years (Video)

Two decades shy of 200 years, the Texas state capital transformed from a settlement of fewer than 1,000 residents to the fastest-growing metropolis in the country. Austin’s attractive weirdness dwells in its contrasts. The city is at once home to some of the most charming historical residential architecture and to modern resort-style living, ranks among the most sustainably-minded urban communities, and is the number one U.S. city for tech startups.

In 2015, we tracked Austin’s most recent construction boom, displaying the city’s new vertical landscape in 10 before-and-after sliding images. This year, our sister website COMMERCIALCafé included the live music capital of the world in its skyline evolution series. The video below shows the rise of Downtown Austin, tracking the construction of buildings at least 200 feet tall, complete with local trivia.

The State Capitol Building was completed in 1888, towering 311 feet above Austin. It opened as the seventh largest building in the world, and still rises 14 feet higher than the National Capitol in Washington D.C. A local ordinance enacted in the early 1930s imposed a city-wide building height limit of 200 feet, and no structure rose higher than the Goddess of Liberty for nearly a century. The first tower to break with the norm was built on West Sixth street in 1974. Rising 335 feet and covered in 3,600 insulated reflective glass panes, which contained a small amount of gold alloy, the “Golden Mirror” was refurbished in the 1980s and is now known as the Chase Bank Tower.

The building boom of the 1980s produced 13 new high rises, mostly on and around Congress Avenue and the Capitol building. Moody Bank Tower, which houses a 12-foot-long table made from a 211-year-old fallen pecan tree in its main conference room, and One American Center, the first Austin building to exceed 400 feet in height, to name a few. Skyscrapers had truly arrived, and the last three projects to be completed downtown that decade all towered above 300 feet: San Jacinto Center (311 feet), 100 Congress Avenue (320 feet), and One Eleven Congress (417 feet).

In 2004, the Frost Bank Tower opened as the tallest in town, first to top 500 feet in height. That same year, the city officially included downtown’s Rainey Street in the central business district zone. A flurry of high-rise hotels and residential towers followed – the Hilton Austin, the 360, Spring, the Monarch, the Ashton, Four Seasons Residences, Gables Park Tower, the Bowie, Windsor on the Lake. The Austonian, completed in 2010, rises 683 feet up and remained unchallenged until last year, when the cantilevered Independent took the crown of Austin’s tallest building, topping out at 688 feet.

View the full COMMERCIALCafé article here.

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About the author

Florentina Sarac

Florentina Sarac is a creative writer, editor, and researcher for RENTCafé. She covers a variety of topics, from real estate trends, demographic shifts, housing industry news and multifamily construction to homeownership, smart-home technology, personal finance and business. With a 7-year background in the real estate industry, Florentina has also penned articles for publications such as Multi-Housing News, Commercial Property Executive and the National Apartment Association Magazine. You can connect with Florentina via email.

Florentina’s work and expertise have been featured in several major U.S. and international publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bisnow, The Mercury News, Curbed, The NY Post, CBS News, Business Insider and Realtor.com. She holds a B.A. in English and Spanish, as well as an M.A. in Multilingual and Multicultural Communication, which serve as a testament to her love of literature and language.

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