East Austin activists gathered today at the Mexican American Cultural Center to protest development of the historic Rainey Street District.
Members from Hispanic Advocates Business Leaders of Austin (HABLA) say a proposed high-rise tower would overshadow the neighborhood that's seen its share of attention from developers looking to break into the budding entertainment district.
The proposal is being requested by developers aiming to purchase city-owned land on Rainey Street to develop a proposed 40-story high-rise in front of the Mexican American Cultural Center.
HABLA members are fighting new developments to preserve the area's traditional Mexican-American heritage. High-rise buildings, they say, would also block the sight of the Mexican American Cultural Center and historic homes in the neighborhood.
Paul Saldaña of HABLA says high-rise construction devalues recent city investment in the center.
“We consider this building to be iconic, a piece of artwork, and we want to protect the integrity of that,” Saldaña said. “We feel that if that property is sold to a developer, then that would violate the integrity of what we have worked so hard to do. We don’t want history to repeat itself.”
Saldaña acknowledged that while the property will inevitably be sold to developers, he hopes HABLA will have input in the construction process.
Saldaña was joined by 13 other protesters including local historian Martha Cotera, community activist Gilbert Rivera and MACC Chairman Juan Oyervides, holding signs that read, “La Cultura No Se Vende” -- “Our culture is not for sale.”
Cortera said the neighborhood, known these days for bars rather than its Hispanic heritage, is on its last legs.
“Now we are getting ready to deal the final death stroke against Rainey Street, the last remaining Chicano neighborhood in city of Austin,” Cotera said. “We have precious few homes left that can tell the history of this neighborhood.”