Universities, Urban Design, and Unease: The Invisible Presence of The University of Texas at Austin in Shaping the City’s Landscape




Prines, Emily

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While there is a burgeoning discussion of the forces of urban renewal, gentrification, and investment in Austin, less attention has been given to UT’s contribution to this change. In addition, how the university moves and establishes a presence throughout the city is unquestioned. The university’s flow of operations is constant and without conflict, which allows the university to expand and develop in a silent and invisible manner. However, in moments of conflict the university’s invisible operations are revealed. I examine the Blackland Neighborhood as a crucial case study of a vocal community that responded to UT’s expansion into East Austin and revealed the university’s silent and powerful land procurement operations. I investigate East Riverside as a case study that exemplifies the university’s role in off-campus student housing and development across Austin. The university’s historic involvement in the development of E. Riverside in relation to the current rezoning crisis is a point of contradiction that reveals the true nature of the university’s operations and missions. We must consider UT’s roles as 1) a crucial property owner, 2) a developer, and 3) an agent for student housing across Austin. Bringing attention to the university’s roles and statuses within the city allows us to view universities as more than places of education, but as institutions that have the capacity to shape a city.



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