Will Congress Avenue Survive?
On my way to try out the new Conjunctured co-working space (which is a whole other story) today on my bike, I stopped to get a few breakfast tacos at the doomed Las Manitas Cafe. Across the street, the abomination known as The Austonian (please don’t start calling Austin residents “Austonians” – we are Austinites!) is going up. In addition to losing Las Manitas as a business, a letter posted on the counter at Las Manitas made it sound like Congress Avenue could lose that block of buildings, completely, to the new Marriott property. The letter on the counter indicated there will be a hearing of the Historical Commission this coming Monday, yet I could not find out any information on the City’s Web site today.
That little section of Congress, which is supposedly a National Historic District, is really a huge part of what I think of as Austin. My grandparents ran a store on Congress when I was a kid, and I remember when Las Manitas was Avenue Cafe, Woolworth’s supplied all our pharmaceutical needs as well as tasty shakes and burgers, the elegant Scarbrough’s department store gave us a taste of big-city living a la Macy’s or Bergdorf’s, and the Picadilly Cafeteria was upscale dining. How much of that essence, the feeling, of that past remain? I’m worried. Maybe I’m overly sentimental, but we have historic districts for good reason in this country, and I hope there is some teeth in this one.