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Commuter Rail in East Austin

Related Links:

• Capital Metro
• Saltillo District Redevelopment Plan
• Chalmers Court, Austin Housing Authority

It's All Systems Go for Capital Metro as commuter rail is scheduled to begin operating in 2008 with nine rail stops planned along a route stretching from Leander to downtown Austin. Residents of Leander have already embraced rail as an exciting part of their future. But in Central East Austin, that excitement is tempered by concern about how commuterPhoto: artist rendering of Plaza Saltillo rail will affect an older inner-city neighborhood. This reports centers on Plaza Saltillo, in the heart of East Austin.

For years East Austin has been the neglected backyard of downtown, a place where low-income families could afford to buy a home, and where small businesses could get a foothold. But now with people moving back to the inner core and commuter rail jumpstarting development, the people of East Austin feel threatened. There are big plans underway for the district surrounding the planned rail station at Plaza Saltillo, which is the area along East 5th Street near Interstate 35.

Chalmers Court Photo:Lourdes Zamaron with sonis public housing that is just blocks from the rail stop. Lourdes Zamarron has lived in Chalmers for over 20 years. "I raised my children here. But now some of the concerns I see with the property values going up, it's becoming prime property. Sooner or later public housing will sell Chalmers and those of us who live here will have to find somewhere else and we don't know where that will be."

The Saltillo District Development Plan can either be the floodgate that completely displaces and gentrifies East Austin, or it can be the place where it mitigates gentrification; where it creates a balance between those who are poor and the working poor and those who have a higher income.

Capital Metro is coordinating a creation of a masterPhoto: plan that it hopes will be sensitive to the needs of the community, but it is a delicate balancing act. The rail stop is going to attract millions of dollars for redevelopment and will result in high density that will inevitably replace some of the traditional bungalows that are common to the area.

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Produced by Elena Ramirez.

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