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Behind the numbers of the 2024 State of Downtown Report

We’re taking a look at the last year of life, work, and entertainment in Downtown Austin — what has changed?

A view of the Downtown Austin skyline looking east from the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge.

Austin is looking different every day — the skyline has increased by 13.7 million sqft in the past four years.

Photo via @jessmeisterwest

We’re taking you Downtown, because the annual State of Downtown Report is here.

The yearly report has been produced by the Downtown Austin Alliance since 2019, providing insight into economic indicators, the tourism sector, development, public spaces, and environment of the 600 acres that make up the Downtown Public Improvement District.

A lot has changed in Austin since this time last year — let’s break it down.

Development

A gif of the Downtown Austin Alliance's developments from 2023 compared to 2024.

Take a look at the difference between 2022-2023, or take a deeper dive by looking at the Downtown Austin Alliance’s interactive development map.

Graphics by the Downtown Austin Alliance

Austin and construction are nearly synonymous at this point, with 7.1 million sqft under construction at the end of 2023.

Here’s how that figure shakes out:

  • 22% was for office space
  • 38% was mixed-use
  • 40% was residential
  • Projects under construction right now will deliver ~3,000 residential units

Downtown has added 40+ developments in the last three years, inflating the skyline by 13.7 million sqft — including 11 completed projects totaling 3.85 million sqft in 2023. New construction slowed down in 2023 after years of nonstop growth, which can largely be attributed to a cooling real estate market, increased interest rates, and an uptick in layoffs.

Housing

Living Downtown is growing in popularity, and the area is 87.4% occupied. Downtown Austin is home to ~15,360 residents (compared to 14,300 reported last year) across ~10,324 residential units.

A peek into the demographics of downtown residents:

  • Ages 25-37 on average
  • 76.8% are college educated
  • 57% are male
  • 21.4% are “non-white”
  • Have a $145,567 median household income

After a sizable rent spike to nearly $3.60 per sqft in mid-2020 through 2022, the daily asking rent in the area is starting to plateau to $3.16 per sqft.

Office space

Despite being home to 129,648 employees and employment rising 21% since 2020, Downtown office vacancy rates rose from 14% to 18.6% in 2023, reflecting popularity of hybrid and work-from-home models.

Downtown didn’t see strong leasing activity from tech companies, but leasing is still healthy for spaces under 20,000 sqft in other sectors. Meanwhile, an additional 2.56 million sqft of new office space is in the works.

Tourism

A graphic reading "Events + tourism drive Austin's economy" "$9 billion total travel spending. $780 million travel spending tax revenue. $380.9 million economic impact of SXSW 2023."

ACL 2023 saw its largest economic impact report yet at $499.9 million, lest we forget.

Graphic by ATXtoday

Although Downtown visitor traffic is 86%-94% of 2019 levels, traffic at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport hit record highs last year.

The tourism impact of Downtown events like SXSW, the CMT Music Awards, Moontower Comedy Festival, Free Week, and the Texas Book Festival brought in major numbers:

  • $9 billion in total travel spending
  • $2.9 billion in direct earning
  • $750 million in travel spending tax revenue
  • 68,190 jobs generated

Tourists have a home in Austin, with four new hotels opening in 2023 and 10 more in the planning or proposal stages.

Entertainment

At least 685 storefronts are open Downtown, representing an 88% occupancy rate (compared to 90% in 2022). Of those businesses, 54% are bars, restaurants, and food trucks.

Nightlife is a huge driver of Austin’s economy, representing:

  • 174 drink + entertainment venues
  • $2 billion in economic impact from live music
  • 11,275 employees in the space

While 68 businesses in the area permanently closed last year, 55 new establishments opened in their place.

Transportation

The Red Line pulling into the Downtown station.

Give the Red Line a try and you might find your new favorite form of transportation.

Photo via CapMetro

When traveling Downtown, 70%-80% of people are doing so in single-occupancy vehicles. The Austin Strategic Mobility Plan aims to get that number down to 50% by 2039 through initiatives including Project Connect + the Cap and Stitch portion of the I-35 Expansion Project.

Though many folks are still traveling by car, Austin’s Red Line Commuter Rail ridership has increased by 170% since 2020.

Public space

In the 2023-2024 fiscal year, the Downtown Austin Alliance used 48% of its budget to make Downtown Austin a welcoming place by:

  • Power washing 29.9 million sqft
  • Cleaning 43,105 of trash
  • Conducting 303 safety escorts
  • Completing six beautification projects

Whew — if you’d like to learn more, read the full report.

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