Austin Sucks

Gentrification is occuring throughout the East Austin area leaving neighbourhoods with a mixture of modern homes along-side smaller, older homes.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Driving north up I-35, I notice one thing: the stark visual contrast of what lies on either side of the freeway.

Last month Forbes identified Austin as the fastest growing city in the country, and, with events like SXSW contributing nearly hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the Austin economy, it’s no wonder. As City of Austin demographer Ryan Robinson told local news station KVUE, 150 new people move here every day; every year, the city accumulates a net of more than 40,000 new Austinites.

These people, obviously, have to move somewhere, and an unfortunate consequence of this reality is the gentrification of poorer communities in the city, such as those in East Austin. 

Gentrification is a natural product of wealthier — usually white — people moving into an established area and displacing the current residents, who are typically minorities. Not only do these residents get priced out of their homes as property values increase, but they also have to watch their neighborhoods lose their identity. 

Austin hasn’t been immune from this process. East Austin is the city’s epicenter of poverty, obesity and crime, all of which can be linked to a shortage of resources. You may ask, “Well, why, then, is East Austin, specifically, plagued with these social calamities?” It is the grim result of one dark, devious-sounding city mandate: the 1928 Master Plan, a solution posited to systematically institutionalize racial segregation of black people. The plan stated that “all the facilities and conveniences be provided the Negroes in this district, as an incentive to draw the Negro population to this area,” effectively expropriating established freedmen communities and zoning them off east of East Avenue, or what is now I-35. 

Historically neglected neighborhoods are the most vulnerable to gentrification. As these neighborhoods are part of a whole, the entire city is affected in the face of gentrification. Neuroscience sophomore James Zara shared how gentrification has affected his place of residence. “Recently, there has been an influx of wealthier people coming into Midtown RV Park,” Zara says. “It seems that even the RV park is experiencing gentrification as wealthier families with luxurious RVs are swapping with lower-income families.”

Austin is an attractive place to live, as evidenced by its rapid population growth, and places like East Austin offer developers cheap land and easy access to downtown. However, the resulting change isn’t always well received by longtime residents. With popular slogans like “Austin Sucks. Please Don’t Move Here” and “Keep Austin Weird,” we attempt to preserve our city’s identity in the face of inevitable social processes like gentrification, which is founded on impermanence. 

To the extent that East Austin becomes a playground for the wealthy upper middle class, the process is detrimental to the city’s culture. If gentrification were to succeed, and an area were to consist solely of wealthy residents, it has eliminated all people of lower socioeconomic status who are typically minorities. Remember: A city’s culture is defined by its diversity of demographics and latent subcultures. 

Though gentrification is a complex natural process of our capitalist society — with a cascading flurry of varying causes and effects, for better or for worse — we should at least be aware that every action committed has a consequence in the society in which we live.

Dominguez is a biology sophomore from San Antonio.

Live music defines Austin. In fact, you often hear that Austin has more live music venues per capita than any other city, although this claim is disputed. But despite the hype, Austin is missing something crucial when compared to music meccas like Los Angeles, Nashville or New York: high-end, professional recording studios. Though live music is everywhere, Austin just isn’t a destination for top recording artists to make big-budget records. That fact, however, could be changing with the reopening of Arlyn Studios, an icon from Austin’s musical past. 

Arlyn is a top-tier recording studio that has been running commercially since November. It will operate as a fully-functioning recording studio in future months and will compete with anything Los Angeles or Nashville offers. The reopening of Arlyn Studios puts Austin on the map as a recording destination for major-label artists, which will benefit not only Austin’s music culture, but anyone who lives here — UT students included.

Despite its rebirth, Arlyn is hardly a newcomer to the Austin music scene. The studio, which first opened in 1984, was the premiere recording spot in town before becoming an audio engineering school in the early ‘90s. An impressive list of musical legends have recorded there, including Frank Sinatra, Sublime, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Willie Nelson. But Arlyn hasn’t operated commercially for more than 10 years since becoming a school. However, original owners Freddy and Lisa Fletcher, along with new partners Will Bridges and Thomas Murphey, have decided to reopen the studio commercially. And with all new, world-class equipment, Arlyn is set to put Austin on the map as a destination for top artists to make records.  

I recently checked out the studios and spoke with Lisa Fletcher, who was very confident about what Arlyn has to offer. She told me that the studio has been upgraded “to a degree that we can absolutely play ball with the New York and Nashville and LA studios.” But, she added, perhaps more importantly, “We can do it for a such a lesser cost.” She explained that recording in Austin is inherently cheaper than making a record in those other cities like LA and New York where the cost of living is higher. Since Arlyn has the equipment, space and amenities to compete with Nashville or New York, she “absolutely” sees Austin becoming a destination for cutting important, big-budget albums.

But if the best artists start making records in Austin, the presence of the big business music industry will inevitably follow. Will this enrage members of the Austin old guard who already adorn their bumpers with slogans like, “Austin Sucks, Don’t Move Here,” bemoaning our city’s rapid growth over the last 20 years? The aging hippies will likely lament the arrival of major label artists and record companies who threaten to marginalize local artists who have built Austin’s legendary, accessible and local live music scene. 

But Fletcher thinks those fears are unfounded. Arlyn “will draw more attention to the fact that Austin really and truly is a music city.” She contends that it “is nothing but good for Austin; it’s the best of both worlds.” Austin can continue to exist with its flourishing local music culture, but big names can “come here and bring [Austin] the credibility that I think it truly deserves.” She also added that the studio will be able to support directly local music by offering recording space to local artists at lower rates. The studio is split up into three different spaces — Studios A, B and C — and while a big name might rent out the whole building to cut an album, a local artist could just as well rent out Studio B for less money. Fletcher was adamant that Arlyn would only benefit the city’s music culture and could do no harm. While Fletcher is clearly supportive of her own venture, the presence of a world-class recording studio is an undeniable boon to Austin’s music scene. Arlyn’s arrival may draw outsiders but it will also give a big advantage to local artists who suddenly find themselves among world class recording artists.

Many students — myself included — chose to come to school here largely because of Austin’s reputation as a music lover’s city. If the city gains a reputation as a recording destination, that will only serve to attract more music-loving students like myself.

Nikolaides is a government and Spanish junior from Cincinnati.