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Urbanization in Progress
Urbanized Nature, Reformed Spaces with Diverse Places, and Commoditized
Place
Christina Lopez - Fall 2015
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Introduction
The global population is currently well over 7 billion. Approximately 53% of this population living
in urban areas, including the 81% of the United States population also living in urbanized spaces (The
Kaiser Family Foundation 2014). The need for understanding the processes, patterns, and future
implications of urbanization is of the upmost importance for the continuance of human existence. The
challenge now is how to define urbanization and how to manage it. For the latter, the newly emerging
role of a city planner is burdened with the task of reconfiguring and/or designing urban spaces to appease
not only the population but also the natural environment through land-use changes that include but are
not limited to: exploitation and over consumption of nonrenewable resources, exponential releases of
greenhouse gas emissions, improper disposal of hazardous wastes and chemicals, and continuation of
anthroturbation and development, the natural processes of the Earth are shifting and responding with
problems for humanity. These problems (climate change, pollution, water resource depletion, etc.) are
now being identified by scientists in varying fields. In this pivotal era, also termed the critical phase
(Brenner 2014), crucial shifts in societal values are necessary to prohibit further destruction and possible
eradication of our species from this planet. In confronting the former term, urbanization,
Implosion/Explosions (Brenner 2014) brings the reader to the realization that through the extending
sprawl, we may be living in a ‘planetary urbanization’. The “ever thickening commodity chains,
infrastructural circuits, migration streams and circulatory-logistical networks that today crisscross the
planet,” (Brenner 2014, 16) reinforces the globalization of the Earth’s surface with the last frontier as
the inhabitable spaces such as the space above (beyond the gravitational pull, outer space, etc.) and the
space below (deep ocean).
The theories behind the wide-spread urbanization may be connected to capitalism or human
nature; perhaps the two are synonyms. Humanity seems to have the inherent urge to socialize and to
prosper. Capitalism began shortly after feudalism, at a time when people were able to become mobile.
Capitalism also emerged from a surplus that was available after laborers were able to produce enough to
be self-sufficient. Through this, multiple economies emerged and then evolved, with the addition of
hinder land exploitation (Cronon 1991), to produce the extensive profit-driven capitalist economy in the
United States today that is driven by the growth machine (Logan and Molotch 2007). The uneven
development produced is demonstrative of social inequities through multiple factors, largely race,
income, and gender (Smith 2008). The three examples used to illuminate the concepts in the course
Managing Urbanization are from the central Texas region. Because of its location to the Mexican border
and the exponential growth in the recent decades for multiple reasons (to be discussed), it is a prime
example of uneven development through the factors of race, gender, and income.
Methods
Towards the conclusion of the semester (October-November 2015), three separate field studies
were conducted. Their locations are depicted below (figure 1) with relation to the Interstate 35 corridor.
Through a mixed methods approach, of both qualitative data collection, i.e. field observations,
interviews, and quantitative data, i.e. demographics and land-use changes, the evidence of urbanized
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spaces for various reasons are established. The first produced space is the Barton Creek Greenbelt which
is located in Southwest Austin near the intersection of Loop 360 and Mopac Expressway (in reference
to my specific point of access- Loop 360). The greenbelt is considered the 7th best recreational trail in
Texas and is composed of 809
acres with multiple access points.
The green space serves as
recreation, i.e. hiking, biking, and
rock climbing, water recreation in
the wet season (typically spring
time), thus offering a ‘natural’
experience to the residents of the
city of Austin. Mueller
Community, located in East
Austin off Interstate 35 between
Airport Road and 51st Street is a
new development serving mixed-
uses in a “sustainable” manner.
The third location is the Square in
Wimberley, Texas. The city of
Wimberley is located to the
Northwest of San Marcos and
Southwest of Austin. This place
deemed “a little bit of heaven,” is
known for its Hill Country
tourism and leisurely ambiance.
Data
The three study sites were perceived and delineated through the course concepts and, naturally,
my own unconscious personal bias. The finds will be explored in through the individual study areas in
the following subsections with references to the appropriate course concepts and the additional
research to support these theories and concepts: Urbanized Nature, Reformed Spaces with Diverse
Places, and Commoditized Place.
Urbanized Nature
Why call the Barton Creek Greenbelt urbanized nature? Based on the perception that it is a green
space, produced and, therefore, set aside from the urban development for a purpose, it is not technically
a space of natural preservation. Because of the allowance of human interaction and anthroturbation
through construction, this ‘nature’ serves as a benefit exclusively for humans (other than the restrictions
for endangered species). While I did not cover the entire 809 acres of the greenbelt, the few miles of trail
I did cover were consistently in reach of traffic noise. To continue with the anthroturbation and
anthropogeomorphic occurrences, the addition of foreign material such as crushed granite placed in the
trail can actually widen the trail surface (Wimpey et al. 2010), and the removal and pruning of vegetation
surrounding the trails continues to add to the second nature of the space. The construction of the highway
Figure 1. Locations of study sites in relation to the IH 35
corridor with red stars.
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through the greenbelt is another causation of anthroturbation as well as the daily uses of the trails by
humans, which are, as the course material and current research suggests, are of a specific demographic.
While the users of the Barton Creek Greenbelt are difficult to pinpoint, using data from the surrounding
areas shows that the majority users are of a higher income, educated, and white, i.e. the creative class
(Incomplete Streets, Hoffman 2015). In conjunction with the creative class, the open green space can
also have effect on the adjacent homes’ property values as a green space is a highly commoditized
amenity in a large urban space (Walker 2007). Field photographs below serve as further support for the
concept of urbanized nature:
A bag of animal waste (figure 2) has been
improperly disposed of and left as garbage. Animal
waste is, of course, a part of any natural ecosystem.
Because this green space is a part of urbanization,
humans enforce their cultural ideals of containing
waste in a man-made synthetic material of which is
foreign to the environment. As a side to this,
researchers report that approximately 10 million
pounds of dog waste are sent to landfills each year
(Dogster 2015). This phenomena may have not
occurred if the green space were not in Austin city
limits, and therefore, may not be considered
urbanized nature.
Figure 3 demonstrates nature under construction and the extent of anthroturbation, as mentioned above.
The fly-over is visible as well as construction fencing (orange) and additional foreign materials added to
support the heavy machinery movement. Other material (not pictured) observed were straw hay bales
lining the fence for sediment control. The
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advices
against the usage of hay bales for several reasons.
The hay bales have a high failure rate because they
are largely ineffectively installed, prone to rot and
decay (especially in the wet seasons), and can be
costly. One major concern for the EPA that should
also be considered by the City of Austin, the
ecological implications of this site, is the unintended
introduction of non-native plant species (through
seedlings unnoticed in the bales), and the ingestion
of the hay bale material in the native animal
species (EPA 2015).
As shown in figure 4, an artists has ironically created a mural of a natural ecological activity; a
humming bird collecting nectar on a concrete underpass. This is a similar situation of reflecting on what
Figure 2. Dog waste in a plastic bag.
Figure 3. Construction in the greenbelt.
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the urbanization has changed or removed as
with Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans; the
leaders of the community that were destroyed
through the development of Interstate 10
(Zavestoski and Agyeman 2015).
An additional perspective of the Barton
Creek Greenbelt is the concept of first and
second nature (Smith 2008). The first nature,
the actual environment of the greenbelt, and
the second nature, Barton Creek Greenbelt.
Humanity has used this creation of second
nature as a means for first. The implications
for this are largely irreversible and have had
unintended consequences. Fluvial systems,
the largest natural geomorphic agent on the
Earth, has been altered by humans (dams, timber transportation, pollution, destruction of riparian
vegetation, etc.) to the extent in which fluvial researchers have claimed there may not be a natural fluvial
systems (Wohl et al. 2007).
With near planetary urbanization (Brenner 2014), it is difficult to say if any first nature remains,
and if so, its distinction from urbanization may disappear within a short matter of time. The ongoing
effects of capitalism and its need to consume space for its growth may continue to be a large player in
the disappearance of first nature, just as it has been in the past (Smith 2008). As this plastic bracelet
Figure 5. Plastic wristband in the greenbelt.
Figure 4. A second nature mural of a bird in what
used to be first nature.
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pictured above (figure 5) reads, “Never Hide.” Nature (first nature) may never be able to hide from the
sprawl of urbanization.
Reformed Spaces with Diverse Places
Mueller Community, formally known as the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport, is a
redevelopment in East Austin located off Interstate 35 between Airport Road and 51st street. The airport
was permanently closed in 1999 and the following year the city council of Austin adopted the Robert
Mueller Municipal Airport Redevelopment Master Plan. In 2007, the developers commenced the
construction of varying housing developments. To fully understand Mueller, one must be aware of all
the uses offered in the 711 acre development and who uses these spaces. Table 1 provides the names of
the current housing, apparel, restaurants, services, etc. located at Mueller. These businesses and homes
are all new construction, and there are still thousands of square feet of retail and commercial space
available, as well as more new homes to be constructed. Among the massive amounts of retail,
commercial, and residential space, there are 140 acres of green spaces including parks, trails and pastoral
parks. The Mueller Community is based on the principles of New Urbanism: reuse of existing
infrastructure, diverse housing developments, employment centers, walkability, and sustainability
(Hayden 2003). While this ‘New Urbanism’ typically equates to gentrification, Mueller has set aside
20% of housing units as Affordable Housing to ensure a neighborhood as diverse as its development.
“The new urban politics is as much about sustainability as it is about urban competition”
(Zavestoski and Agyeman 2015, 141). Austin is one of the fastest growing cities and is therefore,
attracting many people of the ‘creative class’ as defined by Richard Florida from University of Toronto’s
Rotman School of Management and applied to case studies by Zavestocki (2015). The creative class
consists of creative professionals with higher degrees of education than the average working class.
Therefore, they have knowledge intensive positions and usually have a flexible work schedule. Their
unique hobbies and passions are reshaping cities to include hiking, biking, and walking trails, use of
sustainable development, open spaces, and alternative forms of energy. Thus, this socioeconomic class
has been recognized as a key driving force of economic development in many post-industrial cities.
Appeasing to this class equates to urban competition.
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The Mueller Community development seems to be fully aware of this and even advertises as such. Figure
6 is a window advertisement above leasable retail space. Mueller claims to be one of “America’s Hippest
Hipster Neighborhoods”.
Chart 1. Mueller Community Mixed-Use Developments (Mueller 2015) as seen below. Note the
services and eateries compose the majority of the development found in Mueller.
Green technologies and sustainability are the major selling points for the creative class. Google Cars)
can be seen self-driving the tree-lined streets, green spaces in each yard, cisterns for rain water collection,
as well as solar panels on rooftops. The Mueller Community prides itself on these new implications
towards sustainable living:
• Homes designed with non-toxic, recyclable materials
• On-site power plant
• Mixed-use development to offer an alternative to a car- centric lifestyle
• Urban infill (using existing infrastructure) reduces length of transportation
• One tree for every four parking spaces to reduce urban-heat island effect
• Sustainably sourced from a Pecan farm that was closing due to development
• Planned with mass transit in mind along with bike paths and large walkways
• Repurposing used runway materials
• Native plant species in the landscape
• Community-wide usage of gray water for irrigation
• Solar Panels
The greening of the area has and will probably continue to cause environmental gentrification, a
term that refers to the progressive discourse of urban sustainability in effect increasing land and home
7%
31%
33%
11%
18%
Types of Development
Apparel Services Eateries Commericial Misc. Commercial
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values, driving the lower-class people away (Smith 2013) (Brenner 2014). While it could be said that
any progress towards sustainability is an improvement of humanity, the obvious answers are: urban
competition for capitalism and the desire of the streets to be occupied by a specific group, i.e. white,
upper-class, as Implosions/Explosions (Brenner 2014) posed the question of whom are the intended
users of the streets.
As detailed above, the Mueller Community is supposed to construct a livable work and play
environment. Although the sidewalks with wide paths and produced green spaces are visible (figure 7),
the layout of the community is questionable. Table 1
demonstrates the majority of retail spaces in Mueller are
eateries but most of these are located on the opposing side
of the development, and therefore can make walkability
an issue. The growth machine theory (Jonas & Wilson
1999), capitalism needs space to grow and will push out
whomever doesn’t hold the power and the money, and
central place theory (Cronon 1991), that the gravity
(population) of Austin attracts people, can be applied to
this development. Austin is experiencing a rapid
population increase and the city redeveloped Mueller to
appease the situation. Just the fact that Mueller existed as
an airport that went out of date and has now become a
mixed-use redevelopment demonstrates the ever-
Figure 7. Large sidewalks and landscaped vegetation
in Mueller.
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changing yet consistent power of the growth machine throughout time (Jonas & Wilson 1999) and how
the location of Mueller has attracted thousands in a short period of time.
Commoditized Place
Wimberley, Texas is located to the west of the Interstate 35 corridor and, therefore attracts a
different type of urbanization along the rural fringe (Hayden 2003). Previously a small ranching town,
in the recent years Wimberley has become a popular destination for tourism, local shopping and dining,
and even a permanent home for some. What sells people on this place?
“Wimberley has a mystique about it that no one seems able to explain. Most everyone here is here
because they want to be here; however, it seems as though Wimberley chooses us.”
-Nancy Jenkins, Wimberley Resident
“The stakes involved in the relationship to place can
be high, reflecting all manner of material, spiritual, and
psychological connections to land and buildings” (Logan
and Molotch 2007, 18). Thus, reasons for living in or
visiting Wimberley may be subconscious as the rural, first
nature attracts those who feel the cities aren’t where they
want to be; “cities had their roots in natural phenomena but
ultimately grew because, for whatever reason, people
chose to migrate to them” (Cronon 199, 3). Wimberley
exudes Texas Hill Country. Texas wines (figure 8), decor,
over-sized cowboy boots, etc. are littered across the Square
which is essentially the central business district for
Wimberley because the majority of their economy is driven
by tourism. Others are attracted to Wimberley for the rural
landscape and clear blue swimming holes like Jacob’s Well
and the Blue Hole. The usually clear, low flowing streams
of the Blanco River and Cypress Creek with their
overgrown bald cypress trees (the few that remain, to be
discussed) create an immaculate place to cool off in the hot
Texas heat. It’s easy to see why people would be attracted
to a place with small rolling hills and natural beauty.
However, the attempt to capture first nature has created a
second nature that may evolve and create an unwanted
unbalance of urbanization in this place based on lack of
urbanization.
Figure 8. Sign outside small local
shop advertising Texas wines with
wine glass over Texas with the Hill
Country inside reinforcing sense of
place to tourists.
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This past year, nature was not
on Wimberley’s side as two major
flooding events occurred in May and
October. Because of Wimberley’s
strong association with nature and the
beauty of the hill country (which was
now mostly destroyed, i.e. old growth
bald cypress trees uprooted and
debarked, etc.) the city had to use the
sense of community to pull people
together as well as to attract continued
tourism. This push for community
was furthered by the creation of the
Wimberley Strong flag (figure 9)
which can be seen flying throughout
the Square of Wimberley.
Fortunately, the higher incomes of the
residents allowed for many people to easily bounce back in addition to the extreme amount of media
coverage the small town received. They wanted people to know that Wimberley is still a great place to
visit and they were open for business. As the dynamics of Wimberley are changing, there is some
evidence of the growth machine at work. The city recently opened a new H-E-B and a new elementary
school because of additional population growth. Wimberley is traditionally perceived as a retirement
community because of its median age of 55 (US Census 2010), the construction of a new elementary
school has shown the demographics are changing. Wimberley’s future growth, if in moderation, may not
pose too much of an issue for the small city’s identity. However, if left unchecked, it could become an
agglomeration along with San Marcos and just continue the dense urbanization along the Interstate 35
corridor (See figure 13). Thus, a possible outcome: “many families took a small town’s charm for granted
when they bought a distant house, only to find that the town’s physical character was soon compromised
by excessive new development” (Hayden 2003, 14).
Figure 9. Wimberley Strong flag with a ‘Wine Time’ flag
in the background.
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The two Google Earth images that follow (figure 11) were taken in 2005 (the top image) and 2015
(the bottom image). The bottom left of the images is the confluence of Cypress Creek and the Blanco
River. As the images show, the built environment and infrastructure has increased along the main
transportation corridors as well as long the stream banks. Most of these riparian homes were destroyed
or heavily damaged in the recent flooding.
Figure 10. “Rural Wimberley.”
Jacob’s Well Swimming Hole is
pictured on the top photograph
and the view from Old Baldy on
the bottom. A road cuts through
the hill country of Wimberley to
allow residence more methods of
transportation, thus turning the
first nature into a second nature.
Roads alter not only the landscape
but also have an effect on wildlife
and increase run off, leading to
contamination of fluvial systems.
Jacob’s Well is a perennial karstic
spring that has hosted humanity
for centuries. The well, which is
located in a subdivision, has
concrete barriers for sitting visits,
and wooden bridges for easy
access. Entrance to the well now
requires payment as well as an
appointment. Within second
nature, these swimming holes,
views, and undeveloped land
became commodities; priced,
bought, and sold in the network of
human exchange (Cronon 1991).
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Conclusion
Throughout the course of Managing Urbanization, the emergence of the cities and reasons for
their patterned expansion becomes evident through real-world observations. From the creation of
capitalism to the environmental gentrification seen today, the transitions of cities and places in relation
to the countryside are ever-changing. The three study sites provided many valuable insights to produced
green spaces as seen in The Country and the City (Walker 2007) and Uneven Development (Smith 1984).
The redevelopment of existing infrastructure into mixed-use spaces as described in Incomplete Streets
(Zavestoski & Agyeman 2015), and The Urban Growth Machine; critical perspectives two decades later
(Jonas & Wilson 1999).
Further, Wimberley, Texas is an example of how capitalism can take a natural space, booster it
for many reasons as “a little piece of heaven” as in Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West
(Cronon 1991), The Urban Growth Machine (Logan & Moloch 2007), and Building Suburbia (Hayden
2003). Because of the ease in which these course themes could be applied to three study sites nearby, it
is then clear to see how the landscape modifiers can also be applied to urbanization on both larger and
smaller scales. However, the study sites are of particular interest because they are in one of the fastest
developing regions in the country.
Through the course concepts pertaining to urban patterns and processes, the observations and
knowledge gained has fabricated a deeper understanding of the ‘why’ behind most of the development
throughout the Interstate 35 Corridor. Urban planners and policy makers’ comprehension of the
evolution of cities through capitalism, and the creation social inequities, will aid in the formation of
future development that can be sustainable and affordable for everyone.
14 | P a g e
References
Accessed November 29, 2015. http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-poop-facts.
Brechin, G. A. 2006. Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, earthly ruin. Berkeley: University
of California Press.
Brenner, N. 2014. Implosions - Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization. Berlin.
Cronon, W. 1991 Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. New York: W.W. Norton.
Hayden, D. 2003 Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000. New York:
Pantheon Books.
"Homepage | Mueller Austin." Homepage | Mueller Austin. 2015. Accessed December
3, 2015. http://www.muelleraustin.com/.
Jenkins, Nancy. "Wimberley Research." E-mail interview by author. November 9, 2015.
Jonas, A. E. G. & D. Wilson. 1999 The Urban Growth Machine: Critical Perspectives Two
Decades Later. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press.
Logan, J. R. & H. L. Molotch. 2007. Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place.
Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
"Principles of New Urbanism | The Plan | Mueller Austin." Principles of New Urbanism | The
Plan | Mueller Austin. Accessed November 29, 2015. http://www.muelleraustin.com/plan/new-
urbanism/.
"Richard Florida | Martin Prosperity Institute." Martin Prosperity Institute Posts by Richard
Florida. Accessed November 29, 2015. http://martinprosperity.org/author/richard-florida/.
Sayer, A. 2007. "Moral Economy as Critique." New Political Economy, 12, 261-70.
Smith. "Environmental Gentrification." Critical Sustainabilities. September 10, 2013. Accessed
November 29, 2015. https://critical-sustainabilities.ucsc.edu/environmental-gentrification/.
Smith, Neil. 2008. Uneven Development: Nature, Capital, and the Production of Space. New
York, NY: Blackwell.
"Straw or Hay Bales." Straw or Hay Bales. Accessed November 29, 2015.
http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/npdes/swbmp/Straw-or-Hay-Bales.cfm.
"U.S. and World Population Clock." Population Clock. Accessed November 29, 2015.
http://www.census.gov/popclock/.
"Urban Population (Percent of Total Population Living in Urban Areas)." Urban Population
(Percent of Total Population Living in Urban Areas). Accessed November 29, 2015.
http://kff.org/global-indicator/urban-population/.
Walker, R. 2007. The Country in the City: The Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area. Seattle:
University of Washington Press.
Wimpey, J. F. & J. L. Marion. 2010. "The Influence of Use, Environmental and Managerial
Factors on the Width of Recreational Trails." Journal of Environmental Management, 2028-037.
Wohl, E., & D. J. Merritts. 2007. "What is a natural river?." Geography Compass 1, no. 4: 871-
900.
15 | P a g e
Zavestoski, S. & J. Agyeman. 2015. Incomplete Streets: Processes, Practices and Possibilities.
Routledge.

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UrbanizationinProgressDaft_Lopez_Final

  • 1. 1 | P a g e Urbanization in Progress Urbanized Nature, Reformed Spaces with Diverse Places, and Commoditized Place Christina Lopez - Fall 2015
  • 2. 2 | P a g e Introduction The global population is currently well over 7 billion. Approximately 53% of this population living in urban areas, including the 81% of the United States population also living in urbanized spaces (The Kaiser Family Foundation 2014). The need for understanding the processes, patterns, and future implications of urbanization is of the upmost importance for the continuance of human existence. The challenge now is how to define urbanization and how to manage it. For the latter, the newly emerging role of a city planner is burdened with the task of reconfiguring and/or designing urban spaces to appease not only the population but also the natural environment through land-use changes that include but are not limited to: exploitation and over consumption of nonrenewable resources, exponential releases of greenhouse gas emissions, improper disposal of hazardous wastes and chemicals, and continuation of anthroturbation and development, the natural processes of the Earth are shifting and responding with problems for humanity. These problems (climate change, pollution, water resource depletion, etc.) are now being identified by scientists in varying fields. In this pivotal era, also termed the critical phase (Brenner 2014), crucial shifts in societal values are necessary to prohibit further destruction and possible eradication of our species from this planet. In confronting the former term, urbanization, Implosion/Explosions (Brenner 2014) brings the reader to the realization that through the extending sprawl, we may be living in a ‘planetary urbanization’. The “ever thickening commodity chains, infrastructural circuits, migration streams and circulatory-logistical networks that today crisscross the planet,” (Brenner 2014, 16) reinforces the globalization of the Earth’s surface with the last frontier as the inhabitable spaces such as the space above (beyond the gravitational pull, outer space, etc.) and the space below (deep ocean). The theories behind the wide-spread urbanization may be connected to capitalism or human nature; perhaps the two are synonyms. Humanity seems to have the inherent urge to socialize and to prosper. Capitalism began shortly after feudalism, at a time when people were able to become mobile. Capitalism also emerged from a surplus that was available after laborers were able to produce enough to be self-sufficient. Through this, multiple economies emerged and then evolved, with the addition of hinder land exploitation (Cronon 1991), to produce the extensive profit-driven capitalist economy in the United States today that is driven by the growth machine (Logan and Molotch 2007). The uneven development produced is demonstrative of social inequities through multiple factors, largely race, income, and gender (Smith 2008). The three examples used to illuminate the concepts in the course Managing Urbanization are from the central Texas region. Because of its location to the Mexican border and the exponential growth in the recent decades for multiple reasons (to be discussed), it is a prime example of uneven development through the factors of race, gender, and income. Methods Towards the conclusion of the semester (October-November 2015), three separate field studies were conducted. Their locations are depicted below (figure 1) with relation to the Interstate 35 corridor. Through a mixed methods approach, of both qualitative data collection, i.e. field observations, interviews, and quantitative data, i.e. demographics and land-use changes, the evidence of urbanized
  • 3. 3 | P a g e spaces for various reasons are established. The first produced space is the Barton Creek Greenbelt which is located in Southwest Austin near the intersection of Loop 360 and Mopac Expressway (in reference to my specific point of access- Loop 360). The greenbelt is considered the 7th best recreational trail in Texas and is composed of 809 acres with multiple access points. The green space serves as recreation, i.e. hiking, biking, and rock climbing, water recreation in the wet season (typically spring time), thus offering a ‘natural’ experience to the residents of the city of Austin. Mueller Community, located in East Austin off Interstate 35 between Airport Road and 51st Street is a new development serving mixed- uses in a “sustainable” manner. The third location is the Square in Wimberley, Texas. The city of Wimberley is located to the Northwest of San Marcos and Southwest of Austin. This place deemed “a little bit of heaven,” is known for its Hill Country tourism and leisurely ambiance. Data The three study sites were perceived and delineated through the course concepts and, naturally, my own unconscious personal bias. The finds will be explored in through the individual study areas in the following subsections with references to the appropriate course concepts and the additional research to support these theories and concepts: Urbanized Nature, Reformed Spaces with Diverse Places, and Commoditized Place. Urbanized Nature Why call the Barton Creek Greenbelt urbanized nature? Based on the perception that it is a green space, produced and, therefore, set aside from the urban development for a purpose, it is not technically a space of natural preservation. Because of the allowance of human interaction and anthroturbation through construction, this ‘nature’ serves as a benefit exclusively for humans (other than the restrictions for endangered species). While I did not cover the entire 809 acres of the greenbelt, the few miles of trail I did cover were consistently in reach of traffic noise. To continue with the anthroturbation and anthropogeomorphic occurrences, the addition of foreign material such as crushed granite placed in the trail can actually widen the trail surface (Wimpey et al. 2010), and the removal and pruning of vegetation surrounding the trails continues to add to the second nature of the space. The construction of the highway Figure 1. Locations of study sites in relation to the IH 35 corridor with red stars.
  • 4. 4 | P a g e through the greenbelt is another causation of anthroturbation as well as the daily uses of the trails by humans, which are, as the course material and current research suggests, are of a specific demographic. While the users of the Barton Creek Greenbelt are difficult to pinpoint, using data from the surrounding areas shows that the majority users are of a higher income, educated, and white, i.e. the creative class (Incomplete Streets, Hoffman 2015). In conjunction with the creative class, the open green space can also have effect on the adjacent homes’ property values as a green space is a highly commoditized amenity in a large urban space (Walker 2007). Field photographs below serve as further support for the concept of urbanized nature: A bag of animal waste (figure 2) has been improperly disposed of and left as garbage. Animal waste is, of course, a part of any natural ecosystem. Because this green space is a part of urbanization, humans enforce their cultural ideals of containing waste in a man-made synthetic material of which is foreign to the environment. As a side to this, researchers report that approximately 10 million pounds of dog waste are sent to landfills each year (Dogster 2015). This phenomena may have not occurred if the green space were not in Austin city limits, and therefore, may not be considered urbanized nature. Figure 3 demonstrates nature under construction and the extent of anthroturbation, as mentioned above. The fly-over is visible as well as construction fencing (orange) and additional foreign materials added to support the heavy machinery movement. Other material (not pictured) observed were straw hay bales lining the fence for sediment control. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advices against the usage of hay bales for several reasons. The hay bales have a high failure rate because they are largely ineffectively installed, prone to rot and decay (especially in the wet seasons), and can be costly. One major concern for the EPA that should also be considered by the City of Austin, the ecological implications of this site, is the unintended introduction of non-native plant species (through seedlings unnoticed in the bales), and the ingestion of the hay bale material in the native animal species (EPA 2015). As shown in figure 4, an artists has ironically created a mural of a natural ecological activity; a humming bird collecting nectar on a concrete underpass. This is a similar situation of reflecting on what Figure 2. Dog waste in a plastic bag. Figure 3. Construction in the greenbelt.
  • 5. 5 | P a g e the urbanization has changed or removed as with Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans; the leaders of the community that were destroyed through the development of Interstate 10 (Zavestoski and Agyeman 2015). An additional perspective of the Barton Creek Greenbelt is the concept of first and second nature (Smith 2008). The first nature, the actual environment of the greenbelt, and the second nature, Barton Creek Greenbelt. Humanity has used this creation of second nature as a means for first. The implications for this are largely irreversible and have had unintended consequences. Fluvial systems, the largest natural geomorphic agent on the Earth, has been altered by humans (dams, timber transportation, pollution, destruction of riparian vegetation, etc.) to the extent in which fluvial researchers have claimed there may not be a natural fluvial systems (Wohl et al. 2007). With near planetary urbanization (Brenner 2014), it is difficult to say if any first nature remains, and if so, its distinction from urbanization may disappear within a short matter of time. The ongoing effects of capitalism and its need to consume space for its growth may continue to be a large player in the disappearance of first nature, just as it has been in the past (Smith 2008). As this plastic bracelet Figure 5. Plastic wristband in the greenbelt. Figure 4. A second nature mural of a bird in what used to be first nature.
  • 6. 6 | P a g e pictured above (figure 5) reads, “Never Hide.” Nature (first nature) may never be able to hide from the sprawl of urbanization. Reformed Spaces with Diverse Places Mueller Community, formally known as the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport, is a redevelopment in East Austin located off Interstate 35 between Airport Road and 51st street. The airport was permanently closed in 1999 and the following year the city council of Austin adopted the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport Redevelopment Master Plan. In 2007, the developers commenced the construction of varying housing developments. To fully understand Mueller, one must be aware of all the uses offered in the 711 acre development and who uses these spaces. Table 1 provides the names of the current housing, apparel, restaurants, services, etc. located at Mueller. These businesses and homes are all new construction, and there are still thousands of square feet of retail and commercial space available, as well as more new homes to be constructed. Among the massive amounts of retail, commercial, and residential space, there are 140 acres of green spaces including parks, trails and pastoral parks. The Mueller Community is based on the principles of New Urbanism: reuse of existing infrastructure, diverse housing developments, employment centers, walkability, and sustainability (Hayden 2003). While this ‘New Urbanism’ typically equates to gentrification, Mueller has set aside 20% of housing units as Affordable Housing to ensure a neighborhood as diverse as its development. “The new urban politics is as much about sustainability as it is about urban competition” (Zavestoski and Agyeman 2015, 141). Austin is one of the fastest growing cities and is therefore, attracting many people of the ‘creative class’ as defined by Richard Florida from University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and applied to case studies by Zavestocki (2015). The creative class consists of creative professionals with higher degrees of education than the average working class. Therefore, they have knowledge intensive positions and usually have a flexible work schedule. Their unique hobbies and passions are reshaping cities to include hiking, biking, and walking trails, use of sustainable development, open spaces, and alternative forms of energy. Thus, this socioeconomic class has been recognized as a key driving force of economic development in many post-industrial cities. Appeasing to this class equates to urban competition.
  • 7. 7 | P a g e The Mueller Community development seems to be fully aware of this and even advertises as such. Figure 6 is a window advertisement above leasable retail space. Mueller claims to be one of “America’s Hippest Hipster Neighborhoods”. Chart 1. Mueller Community Mixed-Use Developments (Mueller 2015) as seen below. Note the services and eateries compose the majority of the development found in Mueller. Green technologies and sustainability are the major selling points for the creative class. Google Cars) can be seen self-driving the tree-lined streets, green spaces in each yard, cisterns for rain water collection, as well as solar panels on rooftops. The Mueller Community prides itself on these new implications towards sustainable living: • Homes designed with non-toxic, recyclable materials • On-site power plant • Mixed-use development to offer an alternative to a car- centric lifestyle • Urban infill (using existing infrastructure) reduces length of transportation • One tree for every four parking spaces to reduce urban-heat island effect • Sustainably sourced from a Pecan farm that was closing due to development • Planned with mass transit in mind along with bike paths and large walkways • Repurposing used runway materials • Native plant species in the landscape • Community-wide usage of gray water for irrigation • Solar Panels The greening of the area has and will probably continue to cause environmental gentrification, a term that refers to the progressive discourse of urban sustainability in effect increasing land and home 7% 31% 33% 11% 18% Types of Development Apparel Services Eateries Commericial Misc. Commercial
  • 8. 8 | P a g e values, driving the lower-class people away (Smith 2013) (Brenner 2014). While it could be said that any progress towards sustainability is an improvement of humanity, the obvious answers are: urban competition for capitalism and the desire of the streets to be occupied by a specific group, i.e. white, upper-class, as Implosions/Explosions (Brenner 2014) posed the question of whom are the intended users of the streets. As detailed above, the Mueller Community is supposed to construct a livable work and play environment. Although the sidewalks with wide paths and produced green spaces are visible (figure 7), the layout of the community is questionable. Table 1 demonstrates the majority of retail spaces in Mueller are eateries but most of these are located on the opposing side of the development, and therefore can make walkability an issue. The growth machine theory (Jonas & Wilson 1999), capitalism needs space to grow and will push out whomever doesn’t hold the power and the money, and central place theory (Cronon 1991), that the gravity (population) of Austin attracts people, can be applied to this development. Austin is experiencing a rapid population increase and the city redeveloped Mueller to appease the situation. Just the fact that Mueller existed as an airport that went out of date and has now become a mixed-use redevelopment demonstrates the ever- Figure 7. Large sidewalks and landscaped vegetation in Mueller.
  • 9. 9 | P a g e changing yet consistent power of the growth machine throughout time (Jonas & Wilson 1999) and how the location of Mueller has attracted thousands in a short period of time. Commoditized Place Wimberley, Texas is located to the west of the Interstate 35 corridor and, therefore attracts a different type of urbanization along the rural fringe (Hayden 2003). Previously a small ranching town, in the recent years Wimberley has become a popular destination for tourism, local shopping and dining, and even a permanent home for some. What sells people on this place? “Wimberley has a mystique about it that no one seems able to explain. Most everyone here is here because they want to be here; however, it seems as though Wimberley chooses us.” -Nancy Jenkins, Wimberley Resident “The stakes involved in the relationship to place can be high, reflecting all manner of material, spiritual, and psychological connections to land and buildings” (Logan and Molotch 2007, 18). Thus, reasons for living in or visiting Wimberley may be subconscious as the rural, first nature attracts those who feel the cities aren’t where they want to be; “cities had their roots in natural phenomena but ultimately grew because, for whatever reason, people chose to migrate to them” (Cronon 199, 3). Wimberley exudes Texas Hill Country. Texas wines (figure 8), decor, over-sized cowboy boots, etc. are littered across the Square which is essentially the central business district for Wimberley because the majority of their economy is driven by tourism. Others are attracted to Wimberley for the rural landscape and clear blue swimming holes like Jacob’s Well and the Blue Hole. The usually clear, low flowing streams of the Blanco River and Cypress Creek with their overgrown bald cypress trees (the few that remain, to be discussed) create an immaculate place to cool off in the hot Texas heat. It’s easy to see why people would be attracted to a place with small rolling hills and natural beauty. However, the attempt to capture first nature has created a second nature that may evolve and create an unwanted unbalance of urbanization in this place based on lack of urbanization. Figure 8. Sign outside small local shop advertising Texas wines with wine glass over Texas with the Hill Country inside reinforcing sense of place to tourists.
  • 10. 10 | P a g e This past year, nature was not on Wimberley’s side as two major flooding events occurred in May and October. Because of Wimberley’s strong association with nature and the beauty of the hill country (which was now mostly destroyed, i.e. old growth bald cypress trees uprooted and debarked, etc.) the city had to use the sense of community to pull people together as well as to attract continued tourism. This push for community was furthered by the creation of the Wimberley Strong flag (figure 9) which can be seen flying throughout the Square of Wimberley. Fortunately, the higher incomes of the residents allowed for many people to easily bounce back in addition to the extreme amount of media coverage the small town received. They wanted people to know that Wimberley is still a great place to visit and they were open for business. As the dynamics of Wimberley are changing, there is some evidence of the growth machine at work. The city recently opened a new H-E-B and a new elementary school because of additional population growth. Wimberley is traditionally perceived as a retirement community because of its median age of 55 (US Census 2010), the construction of a new elementary school has shown the demographics are changing. Wimberley’s future growth, if in moderation, may not pose too much of an issue for the small city’s identity. However, if left unchecked, it could become an agglomeration along with San Marcos and just continue the dense urbanization along the Interstate 35 corridor (See figure 13). Thus, a possible outcome: “many families took a small town’s charm for granted when they bought a distant house, only to find that the town’s physical character was soon compromised by excessive new development” (Hayden 2003, 14). Figure 9. Wimberley Strong flag with a ‘Wine Time’ flag in the background.
  • 11. 11 | P a g e The two Google Earth images that follow (figure 11) were taken in 2005 (the top image) and 2015 (the bottom image). The bottom left of the images is the confluence of Cypress Creek and the Blanco River. As the images show, the built environment and infrastructure has increased along the main transportation corridors as well as long the stream banks. Most of these riparian homes were destroyed or heavily damaged in the recent flooding. Figure 10. “Rural Wimberley.” Jacob’s Well Swimming Hole is pictured on the top photograph and the view from Old Baldy on the bottom. A road cuts through the hill country of Wimberley to allow residence more methods of transportation, thus turning the first nature into a second nature. Roads alter not only the landscape but also have an effect on wildlife and increase run off, leading to contamination of fluvial systems. Jacob’s Well is a perennial karstic spring that has hosted humanity for centuries. The well, which is located in a subdivision, has concrete barriers for sitting visits, and wooden bridges for easy access. Entrance to the well now requires payment as well as an appointment. Within second nature, these swimming holes, views, and undeveloped land became commodities; priced, bought, and sold in the network of human exchange (Cronon 1991).
  • 12. 12 | P a g e
  • 13. 13 | P a g e Conclusion Throughout the course of Managing Urbanization, the emergence of the cities and reasons for their patterned expansion becomes evident through real-world observations. From the creation of capitalism to the environmental gentrification seen today, the transitions of cities and places in relation to the countryside are ever-changing. The three study sites provided many valuable insights to produced green spaces as seen in The Country and the City (Walker 2007) and Uneven Development (Smith 1984). The redevelopment of existing infrastructure into mixed-use spaces as described in Incomplete Streets (Zavestoski & Agyeman 2015), and The Urban Growth Machine; critical perspectives two decades later (Jonas & Wilson 1999). Further, Wimberley, Texas is an example of how capitalism can take a natural space, booster it for many reasons as “a little piece of heaven” as in Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (Cronon 1991), The Urban Growth Machine (Logan & Moloch 2007), and Building Suburbia (Hayden 2003). Because of the ease in which these course themes could be applied to three study sites nearby, it is then clear to see how the landscape modifiers can also be applied to urbanization on both larger and smaller scales. However, the study sites are of particular interest because they are in one of the fastest developing regions in the country. Through the course concepts pertaining to urban patterns and processes, the observations and knowledge gained has fabricated a deeper understanding of the ‘why’ behind most of the development throughout the Interstate 35 Corridor. Urban planners and policy makers’ comprehension of the evolution of cities through capitalism, and the creation social inequities, will aid in the formation of future development that can be sustainable and affordable for everyone.
  • 14. 14 | P a g e References Accessed November 29, 2015. http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-poop-facts. Brechin, G. A. 2006. Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, earthly ruin. Berkeley: University of California Press. Brenner, N. 2014. Implosions - Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization. Berlin. Cronon, W. 1991 Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. New York: W.W. Norton. Hayden, D. 2003 Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000. New York: Pantheon Books. "Homepage | Mueller Austin." Homepage | Mueller Austin. 2015. Accessed December 3, 2015. http://www.muelleraustin.com/. Jenkins, Nancy. "Wimberley Research." E-mail interview by author. November 9, 2015. Jonas, A. E. G. & D. Wilson. 1999 The Urban Growth Machine: Critical Perspectives Two Decades Later. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press. Logan, J. R. & H. L. Molotch. 2007. Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. "Principles of New Urbanism | The Plan | Mueller Austin." Principles of New Urbanism | The Plan | Mueller Austin. Accessed November 29, 2015. http://www.muelleraustin.com/plan/new- urbanism/. "Richard Florida | Martin Prosperity Institute." Martin Prosperity Institute Posts by Richard Florida. Accessed November 29, 2015. http://martinprosperity.org/author/richard-florida/. Sayer, A. 2007. "Moral Economy as Critique." New Political Economy, 12, 261-70. Smith. "Environmental Gentrification." Critical Sustainabilities. September 10, 2013. Accessed November 29, 2015. https://critical-sustainabilities.ucsc.edu/environmental-gentrification/. Smith, Neil. 2008. Uneven Development: Nature, Capital, and the Production of Space. New York, NY: Blackwell. "Straw or Hay Bales." Straw or Hay Bales. Accessed November 29, 2015. http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/npdes/swbmp/Straw-or-Hay-Bales.cfm. "U.S. and World Population Clock." Population Clock. Accessed November 29, 2015. http://www.census.gov/popclock/. "Urban Population (Percent of Total Population Living in Urban Areas)." Urban Population (Percent of Total Population Living in Urban Areas). Accessed November 29, 2015. http://kff.org/global-indicator/urban-population/. Walker, R. 2007. The Country in the City: The Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Wimpey, J. F. & J. L. Marion. 2010. "The Influence of Use, Environmental and Managerial Factors on the Width of Recreational Trails." Journal of Environmental Management, 2028-037. Wohl, E., & D. J. Merritts. 2007. "What is a natural river?." Geography Compass 1, no. 4: 871- 900.
  • 15. 15 | P a g e Zavestoski, S. & J. Agyeman. 2015. Incomplete Streets: Processes, Practices and Possibilities. Routledge.