“The times they are a-changing…”
So wrote Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, and so we can see in our very own neighborhood. The immediate neighborhood of our parish church is changing in front of our very eyes. For better or worse, the neighborhood is going upscale. We are shortly going to be a chichi neighborhood. Instead of the funky and somewhat gritty neighborhood of “The Drag” we have all known and more-or-less loved, we are becoming something upscale. There is no stopping it, and it is not clear if the good is going to outweigh the bad, nor how we, as a parish community, ought to respond.
We have already seen two high-rise upscale student dorms mushroom up on San Antonio Street just on the block north of us. According to University Area Partners there are eight more construction developments in our area already approved and on the books. The Rowling Graduate Business School, now under construction on the corner of MLK and Guadalupe, will have a huge impact on this area. The Marriott has announced it is constructing a 320 room luxury hotel on the property where McDonald’s now sits. That will supposedly begin construction this Spring and take two years. Truly, “The times they are a-changing…”Some people are anxious to see this change happen. The developers and builders are, of course. But also many in the University of Texas community as well. They find our neighborhood, with its drifters, homeless, pan-handlers and street-youth a dicey-at-best and rather dangerous place. They badly want the area “cleaned up.” This desire has been increased greatly by the fear generated by the murder last spring of the UT student Haruka Weiser, for which Meechaiel Criner, a homeless teenager, has been charged with capital murder. Local area pastors have received more reports than usual from those who work with the street youth that they are getting more attention and pressure from the UT police, who have extended their coverage into the West Campus area, to leave the area. Also, due to APD and UTPD efforts, the use of drugs and instances of crime have decreased in our area since last year, when a wave of crime related to K-2 (synthetic drug) came through.
How should we as a Catholic parish community respond? Should we just sit by and let it happen? Should we increase our efforts to serve the street youth, the homeless and the poor in our area? Should we encourage the efforts to make our area more middle class, even if we realize this will change the character of the neighborhood? Given the forces at work for change, can we even do much of anything significant?
This is an important discussion for our Parish Pastoral Council and for the whole parish. It effects our worship, our school, our possible development of our plant, our relations with our neighbors, a whole lot of significant stuff. I don’t have the answer for this, but I think it important that we not just sit passively by and let it happen. I urge you to take this issue to prayer. If you have a suggestion on how we as a parish can respond to this, let me or someone on the Parish Pastoral Council know. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Truly, “The times they are a-changing…”