Keeping the lights on : preventing small business displacement in Austin’s East Riverside neighborhood




Enders, Katherine

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Small businesses are typically left out of the discourse surrounding gentrification and neighborhood displacement. However, long-term small businesses act as important cultural anchors in their neighborhoods and are a crucial component of a neighborhood’s identity. This study overviews a variety of small business anti-displacement methods that have been used in cities across the United States, such as business improvement districts, legacy business programs, cultural districts, historic preservation practices, commercial land trusts, tax incentives, small business technical assistance programs, and commercial tenant support programs. Austin, Texas has been making headlines the last few years as one of the quickest growing cities in the United States, primarily due to its newfound status as a tech and innovation hub. This paper focuses on Austin’s East Riverside neighborhood, which is poised to undergo rapid gentrification in the coming years due to its proximity to downtown, new light rail infrastructure, and a proposed 10 million square foot mixed-use development. This study seeks to examine small businesses in East Riverside and recommend programs and policies to prevent small business displacement in the coming years. Creating a business improvement district, amending the existing density bonus program in the area to support affordable retail space, using a portion of Project Connect’s anti-displacement funding to support community-led solutions, and planning for small businesses support through the light rail construction process are suggested as the best approaches for preventing small business displacement in the study area.


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