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Curbed Cup Final: (2) East César Chavez vs. (1) Downtown

Which motivated contestant is Austin’s 2016 ‘Neighborhood of the Year’?

Bracket of Curbed Cup Austin contest
Curbed Cup bracket: It’s down to the finals

Note: Due to special rules for the Curbed Cup Finals, voting will be open through Monday, Jan. 2.

After weeks of friendly competition (and strangely few upsets), just two stalwarts of Austin neighborliness and pride remain standing in this quest for bragging rights—and a trophy that doesn’t exist.

Let’s hear a warm Curbed Cup Finals welcome for Downtown (1) and East César Chavez (2)!

In terms of seeding, we feel a bit guilty about being so prescient about both of these feisty contenders, but we’re still impressed with the way No. 2 seed East César Chavez handily took down sixth-ranked Clarksville, the venerated Old West Austin neighborhood bordering Downtown.T

he face-off between eternally under-construction Downtown and the recently hot but still hip North Loop neighborhood in the last round also offered some excitement. The closing of the vote at its scheduled time saw the two in a tie. That necessitated a lightning-round tiebreaker, a nail-biter in which Downtown ultimately prevailed.

But enough nostalgia for the past two weeks. Without further ado: Voting for the Finals is hereby open!

A mural of Cesar Chavez that says "Si Se Puede" with a car lot in front Wikimedia Commons

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 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.

Downtown

"Everybody in Austin knows something about downtown, whether it's Saturday nights on Sixth Street, a visit to the Capitol, or a jog around Butler Trail," reads on of the nominations we got for the neighborhood, "but downtown is so big and so dynamic that few people know the whole scene." It’s true: Downtown is booming on a bigger scale than most places in the central city. That means lots and lots of tall buildings, but they’re not just the office towers of yore: many, if not most, are residences and multiuse complexes, such as the redeveloped Seaholm Power Plant. Downtown development also includes the complete reinvention of Waller Creek and the revival of Shoal Creek, as well as rehabbing smaller green spaces such as Republic Square park and creating new ones, such as the pocket patios on Congress Avenue. It all adds up to a more walkable, vibrant, and accessible place for public life, as well as for its inhabitants.