ChicagoWest / Southwest

Are journalists unfairly portraying Austin?

by Joe Zekas on 6/30/11

Over at Austin Talks Anna Friedman Herlihy, a long-time resident of the neighborhood, is protesting what she feels is the media’s inaccurate portrayal of Austin.

I welcome any of you to come sit with me on my front porch or take a walk around my part of Austin. It is not a perfect neighborhood, but it is solidly middle class, with little crime (lots of parts of Logan Square and Rogers Park have worse crime than my part of Austin), and comparatively few foreclosures (there are far more in most Northside neighborhoods due to the condo crash).

There are parts of Austin that are even nicer than my part, too (like north of the Green Line tracks near Oak Park) and the “Island” and the Galewood part of Austin. And yes, there are some pockets of Austin that are in trouble (probably equivalent in geographic area to the size of Englewood), but you can’t throw the baby out with the bath water – and I don’t think any part of Austin is in as bad a shape as Englewood.

Herlihy’s take on Austin does contain a kernel of truth: Austin is simply too large and varied a neighborhood to describe as a whole. In the slideshow video, I walk through the lovely Austin Historic District. I’ve also walked the blocks adjacent to that district and many of them can only be described as severely distressed and frightening. You know something has gone terribly wrong when police cars patrol in tandem. There are reasons, other than those Herlihy suggests, for Austin’s sharp population decline over the past decade.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna Friedman Herlihy August 20, 2011 at 6:35 PM

Thanks Joe for linking to the article and for acknowledging the great diversity in Austin. Also thanks for such a nice piece about the historic district!
One of the future pieces I plan on writing for Austin Talks is interrogating the population decline–by my preliminary data crunching Austin only ranked 15th in population decline per capita out of the 77 community areas. While not great, it certainly is not anywhere near the worst (like Oakland at number one which lost nearly 50% of its population or Englewood which lost 23%–by comparison Austin only lost 16%, nearly on par with the rapidly gentrifying Humboldt Park at 14%, Hyde Park at 14%, and Rogers Park at 13%). One of the things I hope to do is split Austin up into smaller chunks–maybe just using the census blocks–to see if the decline was uniform or if it varied significantly by area within Austin (I am hypothesizing the latter). Stay tuned! So many parts of Austin are undiscovered gems from a real estate investment standpoint.

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Nick Wilson March 15, 2014 at 5:40 PM

Hi,

My family purchased a house on Superior between Mayfield and Menard that was built in 1885. We like it a lot and really like our neighbors. It is nice to see the whole length of sidewalk plowed from one end of the block to the other after it snows. We never saw this kind of civic pride in Humboldt Park or Logan Square.

I am curious how “the Austin Historic District” came by its designation. I think we live in the area once known as “Austinville” Our house is certainly of the era when Schock was building up the area. I am wondering why the “historic district” ends at Ohio street?

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Joe Zekas March 16, 2014 at 5:08 PM

Nick Wilson,

You can easily see the difference in character between your block and the ones to the south that form the historic district.

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