I’ve always been intrigued by the East Cesar Chavez neighborhood: the mural-sided buildings, the long streets filled with such an eclectic collection of houses, the changing demographic makeup, and the obvious impeding gentrification. East Cesar Chavez (ECC) is a staple to the Austin culture of artistry and diversity. It’s sad to say that up until 3 weeks ago, I had never stepped foot in nor had driven through the area. All of my appreciation for the area, had only been gained from driving down I-35 and peering down the neighborhood streets as I passed by. I had no need to wander out of my way. Thankfully, my JHU CityLab course made me wonder – and wander into ECC.
ECC has its own unique culture that contributes a lot to Austin’s personality. As the times have been changing and Austin has been growing, ECC has been facing an identity crisis. Years ago, its Town Lake shores were unkept, its dwellings were in disrepair and faced with razing, its citizens were relocating, and its purpose was uncertain. Then in 1999, the City of Austin adopted the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Plan to redirect the community and help it to retain its personality and historical significance to the city. The plan is a great concept, but will only be as valuable as the ECC residents want it to be. Dedication to the plan seems to have ebbed and flowed over the years, and even though the neighborhood has had many positive changes, today ECC is still facing some of the same struggles as it did before the plan was written.
I’m privileged to learn more about the neighborhood and hope to add some value to the ECC community by discovering new approaches to old problems and perhaps identifying solutions for problems that haven’t been discovered yet.