The helipad atop the swank, 33-story W Hotel offers a panoramic view of Victory Park. Ross Perot Jr., his helicopter nearby, proudly points to glimmering high-rise condominiums, luxury hotels, office buildings and giant cranes poised to build more on 275 acres of former wasteland. "This is a part of Dallas that had been forgotten," says Perot, one of Texas' top residential and commercial real estate developers and the leader of a $3 billion-plus effort to create a massive downtown district from scratch. The son and namesake of a billionaire two-time presidential candidate, Perot is convinced that without residential and entertainment choices in a dense urban setting reminiscent of New York or Chicago, Dallas risks losing its business edge. High-rise urban living in Texas? This is the largest state in the contiguous USA, stretching more than 700 miles from east to west and north to south, and space often seems infinite. Here, living large and spread out hasn't been just a choice but almost a birthright. However, Perot's development and similar plans by other developers in Austin, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio have put Texas on the front lines of a movement reshaping downtowns across the USA. Austin has doubled its population every 20 years (709,893 in 2006) since it was founded in 1839. Much of that time, Texas' capital city has grown away from downtown. Now, the focus is on increasing the population density downtown by building upward. "At least four towers are going up right now," says Fritz Steiner, dean of the architecture school at the University of Texas-Austin. "It's pretty dramatic. All around the edges of downtown or central area, one sees, if not high-rises, other apartments and condominium projects."
Sky's the New Limit for Urban Living in Texas, and Beyond