Redevelopment Will Rid South Austin of Its Authentic 'Funkiness'

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 6, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Re: “To Opt, or Not?” by Katherine Gregor [News, Feb. 1]: In Ms. Gregor’s article she makes statements such as “It’s [South Lamar] an ugly strip – visually chaotic, pocked with automotive joints, architecturally void” and further states that the buildings are “forgettable structures that relate poorly to the street.” She goes on to make the prediction that “Redevelopment could only improve the urban aesthetics here.” Does she mean new buildings such as the lovely condos behind Walgreens that are clad with two of the cheapest building materials available – orange cinder block and metal siding normally reserved for warehouses on out-of-the-way backstreets? Let’s not forget Austin’s claim to fame when trying to design the architectural tone of the future. One is our famous (or should I say infamous) “Keep Austin Weird” slogan and, secondly, our disputable claim to being the “live music capital of the world.” South Lamar, like South First and South Congress are three of the iconic Austin avenues that maintain a classical “weird” appearance in a town that is beginning to look like any other urban sprawl metropolis. As far as the music scene, two of the remaining iconic juke joints in Austin are located along this “ugly strip” – the Broken Spoke and Saxon Pub. Many of the other classic music venues of Austin, such as Liberty Lunch, have already fallen victim to so-called “redevelopment.” Of course we could tear them down and re-establish them in a “faux funky” new building such as was the fate of Maria’s Tacos. To me that place is just not the same as it was. The only thing that more new development will add to South Lamar will be traffic. What it will take away is that which cannot be replaced or reproduced – that authentic “funkiness” that makes South Austin what it is.
Chris Schexnayder
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