Prentiss Riddle: Austin

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Head EAST May 1

I'm psyched about the East Austin Studio Tour coming up on May 1. I love art and architecture crawls (I try not to miss the AIA Austin tour each October) but I've never made it to E.A.S.T. before. 45 studios and galleries are participating! I can't wait.

East Austin Studio Tour (EAST)

But this year there's a personal note in my interest. I don't think I'm ever going to be able to afford to buy a house in "Old West/Near North Central" Austin where I've always lived. I sure don't want to move to the 'burbs nor (my worst-case scenario) to a trailer out in the county somewhere. Near South Austin is attractive but with Austin's traffic situation I don't want to be across a bridge from my daughters' schools, and besides I'm not sure it's any cheaper than where I am now. There are some neighborhoods slightly further north that may be within reach, and then there's the other obvious candidate: East Austin.

Gentrification is an ugly thing but at this point it seems too far along to be stopped. Gentrification, insidiously, can also be a beautiful thing: between the art galleries on the EAST tour, hipster outposts like Big Red Sun, Cafe Mundi and Church of the Friendly Ghost, the historic houses that the yuppie pioneers have been quietly restoring for a couple of decades now, and official city efforts like the Rhapsody mural at Urdy Plaza and Plaza Saltillo, East Austin is looking great these days. Old funk and new funk in a delicious blend: like it or not, East Austin is the new South Austin.

There remain a few quality of life issues. Is crime really any higher there than in the rest of the city or is that just white folks' paranoia? And can one find enough pockets of excellence in the eastside schools' magnet programs, etc., to make up for their historic neglect (and the self-fulfilling prophecy that makes academically-minded parents flock like so many grackles to a few blue-ribbon schools)? Still, the bottom line may turn out to be: has the gentrification train already left the station so in fact all the bargains are already gone?

I'll have all that swimming around in my head next weekend as I look at the art.

austin 2004.04.21 link


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