Tenants: Storage units to replace ‘Slackerville’ space for artists

Slackerville, S. First Street (KXAN Photo/Kylie McGivern)
Slackerville, S. First Street (KXAN Photo/Kylie McGivern)

AUSTIN (KXAN) —  In the midst of ongoing efforts to preserve places for artists to do their work in Austin, many would argue the city isn’t producing policies quickly enough.”Slackerville” on S. First Street, a space for creatives, will soon to become another casualty.

Step into Amelia’s RetroVogue & Relic, an antique and vintage store in Slackerville, and you’re transported to another era. Jane Clarke is the woman behind it all, celebrating 30 years in business this year. In her store, that many will tell you has a magical quality to it, Clarke pulled out clothing pieces from the early 1900s, including WWI, and told KXAN, “I like the stories that the things tell.”

Slackerville, S. First Street (KXAN Photo/Kylie McGivern)
Slackerville, S. First Street (KXAN Photo/Kylie McGivern)

But Slackerville, now has a chapter in its story that pains Clarke to tell.

“They’re planning to start their process of demo-ing this in December,” Clarke said, looking out the window on a piece of property more than a dozen artists and entrepreneurs work and/or call home.

The space sold, Clarke said, indicating owners announced it’s a done deal. The story is familiar. High property taxes proved to be too big of a match for the owner, who held on as long as he could.

“We all hoped that what would come in here would actually nourish the culture that’s homegrown here,” Clarke said, adding the real answer brings her more pain than any condo could.

“It’s going to be storage units,” Clarke said, shaking her head, telling KXAN Slackerville staples met with the new property manager, who confirmed what the space will become.

“It could kill the culture of this street because it’s gonna bring the vibe down so far,” Clarke said. “The city hasn’t made a law to prevent that happening.”

Slackerville, S. First Street (KXAN Photo/Kylie McGivern)
Slackerville, S. First Street (KXAN Photo/Kylie McGivern)

“We’ve been talking about this problem for over a decade, in some places over 20 years and we’re still — we still haven’t managed to put the policies and the consensus in place,” John Riedie, CEO of Austin Creative Alliance said, explaining the group has made it a mission, working with the city, to find ways to protect what makes Austin, Austin, by preserving creative space. 

“We’re kind of losing the things that made us weird. Now Slackerville – this is weird. This is cool. And they’re going to be gone,” Michael Abedin, who delivers his magazine, “Austin All Natural” to Slackerville, said. “There’s still a few little secret spots left, but they’re becoming kind of like the last Indian villages on the frontier.”

“You’re seeing a market that’s racing so fast that both policy and creative space economics can’t keep up,” Riedie said. “The worry is that we’ll lose the character of Austin. And I think a lot of people argue we already have.”

City staff is expected to return to council this month with recommendations specific to the Austin Music and Creative Ecosystem Omnibus Mayor Steve Adler proposed. Austin Creative Alliance says it hopes that they have a lot to do with land use to not only preserve creative spaces, but expand them.

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