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

Living within studentification

Jacklin Del Rosario

The Drag, a hub of rotating shops shaped by the UT community, has long been an essential part of Austin’s culture. It is a delicate ecosystem of academia and consumerism — debilitated by Austin’s rising rent costs. Businesses on the Drag are coming and going, governed by economic forces beyond their control. As students and consumers, we can help by supporting the businesses we want to stay on the Drag. 

Pho Thaison has stood firm on the Drag for 23 years, providing authentic Thai food and an at-home feel. 

“Many students told me not to change anything because everytime they come in, they feel like they are home,” said V Tran, who works for her aunt and uncle’s restaurant, Pho Thaison, on Guadalupe. 

Restaurants tend to stand the test of time, as Dirty Martin’s Place and Potbelly have. But despite their resilience, everyone has had to face the pressure of Austin’s rising rent prices. V Tran said that for Pho Thaison, the rent has increased by 30-40%.

As property values soar, many business owners need help to keep up. Without support, they  face the harsh reality of displacement. 

Studentification, a term coined to describe the transformation of neighborhoods into student-dominated enclaves, is what Jake Wegmann, an associate professor and graduate advisor for the Community and Regional Planning program, would describe as the changing nature of the Drag. 

“Urbana, Illinois, has had an enormous amount of student housing built in the last five or 10 years sort of changed the look and feel of some of these neighborhoods that are like West Campus – within walking distance of a large university campus,” Wegmann said.

In order to keep up with the heated real estate market, landlords and tenants are forced to increase their rent prices. That is why it is important to use your power as a consumer to support the businesses you care about. 

“In my 10 years of being at UT, … the amount of turnover is just astounding,” Wegmann said.

Studentification has many benefits and consequences for businesses operating within this shared space. On the one hand, businesses see their rent prices eat into their net profits. On the other hand, many consumers are roaming the Drag every day. 

“The Drag is just a very rare example of a virtually pedestrian-only retail district, where the vast majority of the potential customers are students,” Wegmann said. 

Students must recognize the power we have as consumers. We can either nurture local businesses or drive them into extinction. Our dollar is powerful, so let’s give its power to businesses we know and love. Go visit your favorite restaurants and stores and show them that you care. Shop local, eat local.

Change is the only constant for the Drag — but let’s help shape it into the change we want to see. 

Kondaveeti is an English third-year from Austin, Texas.

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