Change is happening in Austin. Let’s talk about it.
“Oh you can change the name of an old song, rearrange it and make it swing…because time changes everything” – Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Time Changes Everything
Like all Austinites, we’ve been thinking a lot about change. We’ve been living it. The conversations have become commonplace – the traffic and roadblocks, the cranes, the condos, the loss of another iconic business to the hands of lord-knows-who. The streets get darker where the skyline grow taller and we wonder what it all means for a place so proud of its small town-ness and its close-knit community.
The change that is occurring around the city is nowhere more magnified and discussed than on South Congress Ave. The neighborhood destination defines Austin in some ways – it’s weird, it’s fiercely local and it feels like home. Shop owners know each other and there’s live music happening here more often than not. As businesses have sold and the retail faces have changed over the years, there’s been a sense of loss. Friends we used to see every day in the course of work are no longer there and you can’t get a burger at Fran’s anymore. May Leslie rest in peace.
Bunkhouse has been on both sides of the evolution of South Congress – we were part of the first wave of change that led to what now defines the neighborhood, and we are also part of this new, changing reality currently on the horizon. When Liz took over the San José and built Jo’s Coffee in the late 90’s, some worried about what was to come. We’re proud that, through the years, South By San José and other events at the hotel and Jo’s have allowed us to create places for the community to gather and have earned us a spot in the hearts and minds of Austinites. Nowadays, in light of more recent changes throughout the city, the hotel and Jo’s have become part of what many what define some older, deemed more original, Austin. Others from the Liberty Lunch/Armadillo World Headquarters days still think of us as new school. Insert a nerdy science joke about time being relative here.
When we took over management of the Austin Motel and other changes started happening on the street, people understandably started to wonder what this next wave of evolution means. The longtime staff at the motel felt unsure after so many years of the hotel having been run the same way by the Dean family, and some people in the community speculated that no good could come from any of it. So we did what we always do at Bunkhouse – we talked about it. We spent time with the Austin Motel staff discussing what change feels like when it’s happening and what it means in the big picture of our city and our lives. We decided that the only thing to do about it was to keep exploring the conversation together. What defines good and bad change? How do we run businesses that contribute to their respective places over time while meeting their financial responsibilities? Are growing a successful business and maintaining a meaningful place in the community mutually exclusive? How do we honor the past while embracing the inevitability of change?
Lucky for us, the Austin Motel has some incredible literary talent on staff, and we decided together that we’d start a blog to share our amateur thoughts on the nature of change together. What follows are the beginnings of those thoughts, as well as a collective exploration of what we love about the motel, our neighborhood and this city in general. We don’t know that we have the answers, but we enjoy the conversation.