City council has produced a tentative resolution to transform the Aldridge Place neighborhood of North Campus into a historic district. The district would span from Guadalupe Street to Speedway and from 30th to 34th Street.
This historic designation is a poorly thought out initiative that creates a burden for student housing and the mass influx of new Austin residents.
The historic district would span from Guadalupe Street to Speedway and from 30th to 34th Streets. The district is already a popular residential area for students due to its proximity to campus. On the surface, designating an area as a “historic district” has sentimental value. According to polls, a majority of homeowners polled supported the historic designation. However, this sentimental allure clouds future necessity by failing to anticipate future housing demand.
The historic designation would permit the city to control the construction and renovations of homes in the area without even offering residents a tax break. Essentially, the construction of new, affordable housing in the district will be halted and rental costs will increase. In the process, the city will be addressing Austin’s real problem — the incoming population surge — with their hands tied behind their backs. Students will be forced back into the already-crowded West Campus, where ongoing construction can hardly keep up with the influx of students.
To begin with, UT’s population is soaring to the point that it cannot even accommodate its incoming freshman class in on-campus housing. Some freshmen are even commuting in from as far away as the Riverside area. On top of this, Austin is one of the fastest growing big cities in the country.
Alex Meed, a junior computer science major, active in testifying against the Aldridge Place designation, states that “it would make it harder to develop affordable housing” in an area primarily focused on students. Meed also notes that the existing zoning laws already restrict development and construction in the area.
Frankly, Aldridge Place is not historic. Historic districts are already in place in Hyde Park for those wanting to preserve a piece of “old Austin charm.” Furthermore, if Aldridge Place possessed “historic value,” then why is it not a major tourist destination? In reality, Aldridge Place’s historic designation is manufactured history. While historic designation is justified for widely recognized historic areas, such as Harlem, the French Quarter, or Georgetown in D.C., it is not appropriate to designate certain neighborhoods as “historic” when even local Austinites are not aware of their existence. If anything, the neighborhood is known only for its loud parties and abundance of college students seeking cheap housing.
Essentially, there is an important distinction between “historic” and “pretty.” Aldridge Place is pretty, but it’s not historic. At this point, city council is abusing its privilege to designate certain areas as historic to create burdens to local residents and students. Rather than looking forward and preparing for an Austin of the future, the City Council is weakly grasping onto a manufactured past.
There is still an opportunity to overturn the city council decision with a two-thirds majority vote by councillors. To preserve affordable and convenient housing, students must become informed on the issue and make their issues heard.
Austin is a young, dynamic city. With its relative lack of consequential local history, we shouldn’t be grasping onto the near past, but rather looking to the future and developing practical yet aesthetically pleasing options to accommodate Austin’s burgeoning population.
Olivia Griffin is a Plan II and government junior from Dallas. Follow her on Twitter @oglikesdogs