On My Block: 12th & Chicon

The area around 12th & Chicon streets is in the midst of a radical change that's been decades in the making. KUT is exploring what happens when a place becomes valuable to a new group of people.

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Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

In the neighborhood around 12th and Chicon streets in East Austin, change seems to be the only constant. We've been bringing you the voices of people in that neighborhood over the past few months as part of our On My Block project. Today, we hear from Judy Mitchell, who owns the Ideal Soul Mart at the corner of Angelina Street and Rosewood Avenue.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

Bobby Mitchell walks across the parking lot on the corner of Rosewood Avenue and Angelina Street, pointing to the large, newly built homes across the street.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

L.M. Rivers stared at the several black tiles he had glued onto the canvas. They colored one-third of what was to be a baseball cap. But Rivers was not so sure what to make of the face depicted beneath the baseball cap.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Our story begins at a dead end near 13th Street and Walnut Avenue in the Chestnut neighborhood of East Austin, just down the street from where Leslie Padilla has lived for about three years. 

You wouldn’t know it from looking at it, but a vacant field just past this dead end is a piece of Austin’s African-American history. About a century ago, this land was home to the city’s annual Juneteenth celebration, which marks the end of slavery in Texas.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT News

For the past few months, we’ve been spending time in the area around 12th and Chicon streets in East Austin, reporting on the changes in this part of the city for our On My Block project.

Today we meet Vivian Linden and Kathy Duffy, co-owners and practitioners at Rosewood Acupuncture & Ayurveda on Chicon. The office is the manifestation of a business plan they created in school to provide affordable health care to everyone.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

For the past few months, we’ve been reporting on the rapidly changing neighborhood around 12th and Chicon streets in East Austin as part of our On My Block project.

Today, we hear from a local restaurant owner who’s bringing a taste of his hometown of New Orleans to the neighborhood. Darold Gordon owns Big Easy Bar & Grill near the corner of 12th and Chicon streets in East Austin.

You can check out more stories in this project at our On My Block Tumblr

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

For the past few months, we’ve been spending time in the area around 12th and Chicon streets in East Austin, reporting on the changes in this part of the city for our On My Block project.

We’ve met a lot of people in the time we’ve been there so far. Today, we head to a funeral home on 12th Street to meet Barry Franklin of King Tears Mortuary. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

People grumble about how fast Austin is growing. But growth can also bring chances for creative collaboration. That’s what happened at Dozen Street bar near the corner of 12th and Chicon streets, when a musician from Philadelphia started hosting a regular Wednesday night session for fellow players.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Charles Urdy, 82, met his first wife at Charlie’s Playhouse, a now-shuttered club on East 11th Street in Austin.

“I just walked in,” said Urdy, a former Austin City Council member and professor at Huston-Tillotson University. “A friend of mine and his girlfriend and this young lady were sitting at a table together, and I just walked in.”

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

This week, we launched a project that we expect to span several months, at least. It's called On My Block: Voices from 12th & Chicon. We've opened a temporary bureau at the intersection of 12th and Chicon streets in East Austin. We're there to tell the stories of how people are affected by the kind of rapid changes in the racial, socio-economic and cultural makeup of this historically black neighborhood.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Decades ago, the area around the intersection of 12th and Chicon streets was a central corridor in historically black East Austin, but over the years, drugs became a presence at the corner. Prostitution and other illegal activity happened in broad daylight there, and in 2012, Austin police took a new approach to the problem – what’s called a drug market intervention.


Jorge Sanhueza Lyon / KUT

Eight years ago, homebuilder Daniel Reeves visited the corner of 12th and Chicon for the first time and happened upon a street brawl. These days, instead of street brawls, there are people walking dogs and parents pushing baby strollers. Wealthier — and whiter — residents are moving in.

Today, Reeves lives in the neighborhood himself and builds homes there. But what does that mean for the residents who have long called this place home?


Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

Ambres Kearney’s muscle memory flares up every time he drives back to his East Austin alma mater, Anderson High School. As he pulls into the U-shaped parking lot, he instinctively tries to park his car in the same spot where he parked his 1963 burnt orange Chevrolet 45 years ago as a high school senior. 

“My wife said ‘Where are you going?’ But it was so natural to drive up,” Kearney says. Instead, he parks in the street and sits on the stoop at the front entrance. Parts of the concrete steps underneath him are crumbling.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Austin is built on the bones of old bars, at least it seems that way, when you start looking for them.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

A tall, metal marquee dominates the southwest corner of  12th and Chicon streets. Like a voiceless preacher, the scrolling display on the sign serves as a freestanding directory of activities for those in the neighborhood – all offered by its owner, Mission Possible Church. 

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

In the late morning hours on the Southeast corner of 12th and Chicon streets, a visitor sees a bus stop with a bench on the Chicon side. Behind that bus stop, an empty lot; way behind that, a small convenience store with a drive-thru window. And then, on the 12th Street side, Marshall’s Barbershop.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

Aside from some passing traffic, the northeast corner of 12th and Chicon streets remains fairly quiet in the early morning hours.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT

It’s no secret that Austin is growing and changing fast. In some parts of the city, it's happening more quickly than others. Maybe no place in Austin has seen a more noticeable transformation than East Austin


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