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Some East Austin residents see expansion as progression, not suppression

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TWC News: Some East Austin residents see expansion as progression, not suppression
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From their perch on East Ninth Street, Ewing Roberts and his cousin Sherman Patton have seen just about everything change.

"Original neighbors here, just about all of them are gone," Roberts said. "These people here now, so many different races up in here."

Patton's neighborhood started to attract new faces during the 1970s and1980s.

"I've been around white people all my life and that's 78 years. It don't faze me one bit, one way or another,” Patton said.

The market has boomed over the past decade. Real-estate agent Willis Hunt remembers when lots on East 13th sold for a couple thousand dollars. Now, a fixed up home can sell for more than $270,000.

"The culture change is that those who once said 'You don't want to go across 35,' to those who now say, ‘Hey man this is great. I can ride my bicycle downtown,’” Hunt said. "It's not East Austin--black East Austin--anymore."

In the late 1990s, the city began an urban renewal project on East 11th and 12th streets.

"Better sidewalks, better roads, filling potholes, things that should've, and all of a sudden get done," State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez said.

The city spent more than $25 million revitalizing 11th Street.

"It creates a corridor where individuals, residents, other members of the community, want to come,” Rebecca Giello with the City of Austin said. “It creates it for those who weren't here and it certainly creates it for those who have been here for a long time."

Local business owners can certainly benefit from their spruced up surroundings. Joe's Bakery on East Seventh Street has more foot traffic since the city dropped $17 million to fix up the street.

"Nobody wanted to come to East Austin because it was the bad part of town, but now, you know how they say ‘destination vacation.’ It’s becoming a destination where young professionals want to live," Regina Estrada with Joe’s Bakery said.

Estrada's grandparents opened the business 50 years ago.

"Change is not bad, but instead of trying to give East Austin a whole new makeover, let's just tweak it" she said.

Patton is also fond of his new neighbors. He keeps an eye on their homes when they go out of town.

"Things have got to bring about a better change as people move around," he said. "It's just the changing of the guard."

And it’s bound to change again, as future generations move in and the city’s evolution continues.

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