East César Chavez
The East César Chavez neighborhood this year, arguably, took center stage for civic conversations around East Austin and gentrification, but pretty much everyone agrees that it is a vibrant neighborhood with a rich history and a energized present. The controversial destruction of a piñata store (now Blue Cat Cafe) for a SXSW event made headlines earlier in the year, and the struggle over the area’s identity isn’t new. The neighborhood has consistently held out for responsible change, though and lately things seem to be shifting a bit in that direction; it recently fought off the building of a boutique hotel, and there are plans to build affordable micro-unit apartments in that space instead. Right now it’s a mix of old-school bungalows and contemporary builds; award-winning new design; older businesses oriented toward the historically working-class, Latino population alongside boutiques, art spaces, and upscale landscape design storefronts; service organizations, churches, and, yes, piñata stores.
Bouldin Creek is at the center of South Austin’s prolonged, tourist-oriented boom, as well as convenient to the parks and lawns of the river’s south side and its many events and festivals. The neighborhood’s residents—many of whom date back to well before any significant boom—are well aware of the double-sided nature of their location, but the lengths to which they unite to preserve Bouldin’s very special character (let’s just say don’t open a barbecue joint upwind of the area or try to get rid of the peacocks that roam some of its streets) is testament to its allure.
It can be expensive, but it retains its character and many of its characteristic homes; it contains multitudes and rolls with the changes on South Congress (including or perhaps especially the boutique hotels that sneak into the neighborhood proper); and it deals with the inevitable change that comes to its few underdeveloped areas, which can sacrifice beloved businesses in the process. Still, there’s a pretty big upside, including the great restaurants and local businesses that run along its main corridors and the relaxed yet fiercely defended feel of the residential spaces between. And, lest we forget: they have an awesome greenbelt, too. Embarrassment of riches, really.