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Why Nobody Lives in These Empty Cities in Texas

Despite having a population of over 29 million, Texas is a large state with a lot of empty spaces and abandoned cities. Because they were formerly bustling settlements that were abandoned for a variety of reasons, some of these locations are known as “ghost towns.” Some are more contemporary instances of urban deterioration, with empty and underutilized housing complexes and office buildings. What are the reasons for these deserted cities in Texas?

The Rise and Fall of Ghost Towns

Economic boom and bust cycles, particularly in sectors like mining, oil, railroads, and agriculture, are typically the cause of ghost towns. As these industries prospered, they drew laborers and residents, who established villages and commercial centers nearby. However, the towns lost their economic viability and their residents moved away when the resources ran out, the markets crashed, or the transportation routes altered.

Texas has a number of ghost towns, including:

  • Terlingua: A former mining town in the Big Bend region, famous for its mercury production and chili cook-offs. It was abandoned in the 1940s when the demand for mercury dropped after World War II. Today, it is a tourist attraction and a hub for artists and adventurers.
  • Thurber: A coal mining town in Erath County, once the largest town between Fort Worth and El Paso. It was deserted in the 1930s when the Texas and Pacific Railway switched from coal to oil and the mines closed. Today, it is a historic site with a museum and a smokestack.
  • Lobo: A railroad town in Culberson County, near the border with New Mexico. It was abandoned in the 1960s when the water supply dried up and the railroad service was discontinued. Today, it is a ghost town with a few buildings and a cemetery.

The Challenge of Empty Office Space

A more recent occurrence, empty office space is brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the move toward remote work. Numerous companies and workers have come to understand the advantages of telecommuting, including reduced expenses, increased output, and increased freedom. Consequently, there is less of a need for office space, which has left many buildings unused and unoccupied.

The following cities have high rates of office vacancy:

  • Houston: The largest city in Texas and a major hub for the energy industry. It has an office vacancy rate of 25%, the highest among major U.S. cities. The pandemic has worsened the situation that was already affected by the oil price crash and the oversupply of office space.
  • Dallas-Fort Worth: The second-largest metro area in Texas and a diversified economy with sectors such as technology, finance, and aviation. It has an office vacancy rate of 23%, the second-highest among major U.S. cities. The pandemic has slowed down the growth and development of the area, which was previously one of the fastest-growing in the country.
  • Austin: The capital of Texas and a hotspot for innovation and entrepreneurship. It has an office vacancy rate of 21%, the third-highest among major U.S. cities. The pandemic has reduced the need for office space for many startups and tech companies, which have embraced remote work and hybrid models.

The Implications of Emptiness

Urban emptiness can negatively affect urban life’s social, environmental, and economic facets. Among the possible issues are:

  • Loss of revenue and services: Empty buildings and towns generate less tax revenue and require more maintenance and security. This can affect the quality and availability of public services and infrastructure, such as roads, schools, and parks.
  • Decline of downtown areas: Empty office space can reduce the foot traffic and spending in downtown areas, which depend on office workers to support restaurants, retail, and entertainment businesses. This can lead to more closures, vacancies, and blight, creating a vicious cycle of urban decay.
  • Waste of resources and land: Empty buildings and towns consume energy, water, and materials that could be used for other purposes. They also occupy land that could be used for housing, agriculture, or conservation. This can contribute to environmental degradation and sprawl.

The Opportunities of Emptiness

Cities that are empty can benefit from chances for creativity, adaptation, and revival. Among the potential fixes are:

  • Repurposing and redevelopment: Empty buildings and towns can be repurposed and redeveloped for new uses, such as housing, education, health care, or recreation. This can increase the diversity and affordability of urban spaces, as well as the efficiency and sustainability of urban design.
  • Preservation and tourism: Empty buildings and towns can be preserved and promoted as historical and cultural attractions, such as museums, art galleries, or festivals. This can increase the awareness and appreciation of the heritage and identity of urban places, as well as the income and employment of local communities.
  • Reimagining and experimentation: Empty buildings and towns can be reimagined and experimented with new ideas, such as co-working, co-living, or co-creating spaces. This can foster the creativity and collaboration of urban dwellers, as well as the innovation and entrepreneurship of urban economies.


Texas’s empty cities are the product of a number of historical and modern factors, including demographic shifts, industrial cycles, and technological advancements. Urban planning and development are presented with both opportunities and difficulties by them, necessitating vision and action from both public and private parties. They also provide insights and lessons for the future of cities, reflecting the diversity and vibrancy of urban life in Texas.

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