You’d have to be blinder than the Congress Bridge bats to not notice that there are big changes underway in Austin. But for a city with “Keep Austin Weird” as its rally cry, is this change for the better? Or are we instead, making Austin commercial?
Recently, the well-known (and well-loved) food trucks located on South Congress all had to pack-up and leave the spot that they’ve called home for more than 5 years. Despite attempts to keep the trucks as part of the familiar landscape of South Congress, the land was never their own and now a hotel will be erected on the site instead.
But SoCo isn’t the only neighborhood in Austin that’s changing its identity as the city becomes more popular. Some statistics estimate that Austin is growing by 172 people every day. And as Austin grows in population, the city is being developed to accommodate not only the numbers, but the desire to keep up to date and modern.
This will soon be seen as the Rainey Street area starts to go under some noticeable changes. What was once an alternate to the 6th street nightlife in Austin will be have a completely different look and feel than the small, cozy bars we are accustomed to. Its bars are slowly closing their doors to make way for more condos and residential units.
Even the Alamo Drafthouse and the Broken Spoke– business’ arguably as Austin as they come – aren’t immune to the changes. For over a year, heavy construction at the separate homes of the South Lamar Drafthouse and (farther South) Broken Spoke have made what looks now to be little more than giant construction sites and holes in the ground. And while we’ll get to keep those two loved institutions at their original locations, we’ll soon start to see high-end boutiques, (even more) condos, and office spaces crop up around them.
A city as well loved as Austin – by locals and visitors alike – was bound to step into bigger shoes sooner or later. On the one hand, one could argue that it’s good for the city – it’s creating improvements that will generate more unique and celebrated spots like Barley Swine or Uchi. Not to mention the boost popular shopping areas can offer to the local economy. And in some cases I’ll agree that improvements were needed. But will big hotels and condos and higher end boutiques really allow Austin to maintain the charm, quirk and uniqueness that has defined the city over the past however-many decades? Only time will tell, but I for one think we’re becoming a little less weird. And even if it was inevitable, it still makes me a little more sad.