Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

I-35 expansion set to demolish apartment building, displacing UT students

Kennadie Kusbel moved from the Rio Grande Valley to Austin in 2022 after finding a one-bedroom apartment three miles from campus through a Facebook post. With rising housing costs, she said she would not have been able to attend UT if she had not found the apartment. 

She lives with her girlfriend, whose 1960s band posters adorn the walls. Dozens of games fill the living room shelves, along with a video game drum set and a litterbox for their cat, Chang. In their room, a real drum set sits in the corner next to landscape canvases they painted together through hours of follow-along painting tutorials. 

When Kusbel met her girlfriend, she asked, “‘If I ever got into UT-Austin, would you move with me?’”

Two years later, Kusbel transferred to the University after taking time off to work, and her girlfriend kept her promise.

 “It’s a pretty special apartment because it’s a really big step in both of our lives,” said Kusbel, who studies chemical engineering.

Kennadie Kusbel in her one-bedroom apartment on Nov. 5, 2023. (Leila Saidane)
Kusbel and her girlfriend, Karen, outside their apartment at The Village at 47th, right beside the I-35. (Leila Saidane)

However, a couple of weeks ago she found a note on her door informing her that the expansion of Interstate 35 would demolish her side of the building. She said the one-page note lacked information, including a possible timeframe.

The apartment building, The Village at 47th, managed by University Realty, provides more affordable rent for students. Kusbel and her girlfriend pay a combined rent of approximately $1,000 per month, and she said she has not found another apartment with both proximity to campus and at an affordable price. 

“I can barely afford rent,” Kusbel said. “It’s just something that honestly I don’t know how I’m gonna do. I really don’t. It’s stressful. It’s very stressful. I’m just telling myself to get finals out of the way, finish the semester, and then I’m gonna have to get a job over winter break.”

Kusbel lives in one of 22 units set for displacement. On the other side of her complex, more expensive units house a few graduate students. University Realty President Michel Issa said residents like Kusbel can relocate to one of those apartments as they will not face displacement. He said the Texas Department of Transportation has not provided specific moving dates, but he understands the residents will have until next summer to move. TxDOT will cover all moving costs they deem reasonable. 

The couple received a paper from the Texas Department of Transportation detailing relocation assistance. (Leila Saidane)

“Selling a portion (of the complex) was never in our plans,” Issa said. “It’s a surprise, but (TxDOT) does have the power of eminent domain as the state.”

Isabella Peterson, a second-year master of public affairs graduate student, used to live on the side of the complex facing displacement. She said the residents primarily consist of older people who have made the apartments their home for several years. 

Peterson recently moved to the side of the complex, avoiding displacement, and she said she worries of the noise and pollution the eight-year construction will bring.

“If I were to live here again, (construction) would definitely be a reason to get out,” Peterson said. “Construction doesn’t respect (their working hours) so it’s pretty insane because I know a lot of people here work from home.” 

Roughly a mile away stand The Avalon Apartments, bordering I-35 across from the University. They also await displacement next to a Spanish-speaking school and Star Cafe.

Kusbel said the loud highway distracts her from studying, and the high air pollution warning she receives every day draws her away from going outdoors to meditate, walk and focus. 

“It’s honestly a little depressing,” Kusbel said. “We don’t need more concrete and we don’t need more pollution.” 

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About the Contributor
Leila Saidane, Photo Editor
Leila Saidane is a junior from Dallas, Texas, studying Radio-TV-Film and Journalism. Her words and photos have been published in The Texas Tribune, The Austin Chronicle, The Austin American-Statesman and The Dallas Morning News.