Saturday, October 27, 2012

Austin And San Antonio

Austin and San Antonio are siblings. The former is the most popular kid at school. The latter is a late bloomer, quiet and unassuming. Both metros suffer from the isolation that comes with sprawl. The talent pool gets scattered into shallow puddles around the region:

As African-Americans leave for the suburbs, East Austin — a traditional center of African-American culture — is also being gentrified.

Those two trends are fraying the ties that bind.

“People are very spread out geographically, particularly African-Americans,” said Belinda Matingou, who moved to Round Rock from Atlanta in 2005 to take a job at Dell. A member of the chamber’s diversity task force, Matingou said her first six months here were tough, juggling a new job, baby, house-hunting and getting her family relocated. ...

... Ferron said his family enjoys Austin, but “I wouldn’t want my child to grow up in a bubble” without exposure to black culture and arts.

“Outside of music, Austin doesn’t have much,” he said. “We are going to have to supplement the culture with travel and the friends we make.”

Emphasis added. Richey Piiparinen and I saw the same pattern in San Antonio. Newcomers regardless of race or ethnicity felt alone, struggling to connect with other like-minded people. The energy is spread out geographically. There are bunch of different communities living in a bubble with little idea what is going on in the rest of the metro, particularly in the urban core.

Using Census data, we saw a big boost of African-Americans in the Meadowbrook Neighborhood. It's a place of inexpensive housing that could be anywhere and nowhere. Walking is an adventure. You feel like you are on the edge of an abyss. Downtown San Antonio might as well be 1,000 miles away. Finding a cheap place to live isn't difficult. The inner ring neighborhoods are bleeding people. Gentrification is spotty, at  best. Why blacks are choosing Meadowbrook over some other part of San Antonio is a mystery.

What makes a city go isn't density or access to affordable shelter. The magic is migration and how this dynamic demographic can connect with people of similar experience. Geographically mobile African-Americans are having a tough go of it in Austin. There are more opportunities in San Antonio, a landscape still waiting to be defined.

Both cities are struggling with the isolation of sprawl. Austin's revamped urban core is a fait accompli. San Antonio is the future, a place that can be. Go there and make your mark.

1 comment:

Jardinero1 said...

If you desire a vibrant african american community, move to Houston. If you want a vibrant hispanic community, move to either Houston or San Antonio. If you want an uppity, liberal white community, then move to Austin after a youthful sojourn to NYC, SF or Portland.