By: Cody Jo Bankhead, Diego Contreras, Anthony Guerra, and Austin Harrison.
Looking down from outer space human bodies appear to be suspended to the earth by backpacks as they shuffle in and out of skyscrapers and concrete buildings with Greek letters scribbled across them. Blue and red Solo cups color the grass as if they are trying to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” for themselves. The neighborhood never sleeps. This is West Campus.
Located behind Guadalupe Street, otherwise known as “The Drag” by Austin residents, and nestled in-
West Campus is well known by Austin residents, but filmmaker Richard Linklater, known for his cult classic, stoner film “Dazed and Confused,” brought another level of notoriety to this tight knit community. Linklater’s first film “Slacker” was shot in West Campus. The film features extensive scenes in the neighborhood prior to its expansion as the predominant location for UT student housing.
The neighborhood is home to various apartment complexes, condominiums, co-operative housing compounds, sorority and fraternity houses, restaurants, bars, and local businesses like real estate companies.
In recent years West Campus has become known primarily for its housing of Greek organizations, including 13 sorority houses and over 30 fraternity houses.
Greek organizations host various events throughout the year including a three-day long party in the spring that raises money for various philanthropic organizations known as “Round Up.” Events such as these have contributed to backlash from locals who complain of West Campus’ rambunctious reputation.
“The most annoying thing about living in west campus is having to deal with drunk college students at 2 o’clock, or 1 o’clock in the morning,” Joey Valenzuela, a recent UT graduate and real estate researcher, said. “Especially if you’re trying to sleep or study at night and you can hear hollering and yelling outside of your window.”
Noise levels are one of the many complaints students and residents have in regards to West Campus. Other concerns include housing prices, building maintenance, constant construction, and safety.
Fixing the problems with West Campus is no easy task. Mike McHone, the vice president of University Area Partners, believes that there is no simple fix in West Campus. According to McHone, repairing streets like Rio Grande are often complex construction projects.
“Buried in the streets is drainage and sewer lines and that presents multiple complications,” McHone said.
When homes and other structures are built, builders routinely place utility pipes underneath the asphalt. These pipes include electricity and sewage. Making a road wider or smoother may require contractors to take certain precautions that tend be more expensive.
Many students complain about the infrastructure of West Campus, however improvements to roads and streetlights depend on the budget passed by the city of Austin, McHone said.
According to McHone, University Area Partners are dedicated to improving the safety and living conditions in West Campus for all students. The University Area Partners are a neighborhood registry for West Campus that provides information to the public and helps construct policy decisions.
The city of Austin has seen major expansion in the last decade with as many as 100 people moving to the city each day. Some see the city’s rapid expansion as a reason for West Campus’ steep rises in housing prices.
“Now that Austin has become more expensive I feel like it’s reasonable to live in West Campus,” Joey Valenzuela said. “The market is kind of leveling out and $800 seems pretty reasonable to live in West Campus or any other part of the town as well.”
On average, West Campus living has increased at an annual rate of 10 percent. According to the trend, if a student graduating in 2014 has a child that attends The University of Texas in 2054, the rent for the child will have jumped from $840 to $38,467 a month, a massive increase over the span of 30 years.
“It’s not affordable for the entire student body to live here anymore. Even the cheaper places have become a lot more expensive,” Safeer Khatib, a UT senior said. “I’ve seen a change in three years, when I got here it was a lot cheaper.”
According to realtor Kevin Farrell, the price of realty is skyrocketing and even with all the development that is ongoing, the prices aren’t being driven down. “It would be nice if there was more affordable housing for students in the west campus area,” Farrell said.
In order to obtain affordable housing, some students live areas such as Riverside and commute to campus. These commutes can be inconvenient and often present obstacles for students like traffic.
However, Farrell does believe that more students living in West Campus is a step in the right direction.
“I like the idea of UT students being closer to campus,” Farrell said.