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Oilcan Harry's

Austin: Gaytrification

As in many American cities, Austin’s oldest LGBTQ businesses established a foothold in what was once an undervalued warehouse district.

We all know how this story is going to end.

Or is it?

“About half of Austin’s LGBTQ-centric nightlife spaces could soon be displaced, as redevelopment comes to the historic buildings they call home,” wrote Eric Webb of “Austin American-Stateman.”

Then, a developer presented its plans for the 200 block of West Fourth Street to the Austin Historic Landmark Commission.

The LGBTQ community became alarmed.

Then the company announced it would “retain the history and character” of the block with a new residential tower anchored by ground-floor commercial space. It also promised space to longtime gay bar Oilcan Harry’s. Just Oilcan Harry’s. Its neighbors Neon Grotto and Coconut Club will likely be replaced by a “cool, chef-driven restaurant,” the developer said.

What to make of this?

A few years back, “The Guardian” shed light on gay communities and gentrification.

“This dates to the 2002 publication of Richard Florida’s ‘The Rise of the Creative Class,'” the news website wrote. “Florida’s theory placed gay people at the heart of urban regeneration, part of a gentrifying vanguard along with creative and tech workers and ‘high bohemians,’ who together helped to repopulate and refurbish previously rundown urban areas.”

“In doing so, the model suggests these groups suck in more economic investment by creating the sort of attractive environment in which ‘wealth creators’ like to live.”

On May 4, the City of Austin’s Historic Landmark Commission met to consider the historic designation proposed by the developer.

Oilcan Harry’s general manager spoke in support of the demolition. He cited a deal with the developer to subsidize the bar’s rent for the next 25 years.

Ahhhh … now we know.

The Commission voted unanimously to initiate historic protections for properties on Fourth and Colorado Streets.

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