Over the next two weeks, Next City will unroll short profiles of 77 people, places and ideas that have changed cities this year. Together, they make up our 2012 Disruption Index. Forefront subscribers can download the Index in full as a PDF, complete with beautiful designs and graphics by Danni Sinisi. Readers who make a $75 donation to Next City will have a full-color printed copy of the Index mailed to them.
The future of progressive urban policy, apparently, is deep in the heart of Texas. This may sound a bit surprising, given the Lone Star State’s reputation as a gun-slinging, freedom-loving land of big ranches and small government. And yet there are a handful of people and projects in Texas demonstrating that the state is as enthusiastic about a new future as it is reverent of its simpler past.
In Dallas, for example, city officials just cut the ribbon on a new park that was literally built on top of a freeway. The 5.2-acre park is a cap over the Woodall Rodgers Freeway running near downtown Dallas; it’s the sort of project cities across the country have been considering for the dead space above highways and interstates. Over in Austin, the state capital is establishing itself as an anti-sprawl crusader with recently completed plans that favor compact development. In Houston, the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Policy is making sustainability a key citywide goal. And San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro stepped boldly into the national spotlight during the Democratic National Convention this year, proving himself to be a charismatic politician with the sort of mainstream appeal that could translate into higher office. This is the new Texas.
Nate Berg is a writer and journalist covering cities, architecture and urban planning. Nate’s work has been published in a wide variety of publications, including the New York Times, NPR, Wired, Metropolis, Fast Company, Dwell, Architect, the Christian Science Monitor, LA Weekly and many others. He is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities and was previously an assistant editor at Planetizen.