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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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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