Jumping the Shark (part two)Here is a thoughtful and poignant e-mail from a reader in response to my post last week about Austin jumping the shark. His handle is "Batman".
Here in Calgary we experienced growth a few years ago. Mostly due to the oil sands nearby. I moved here when it was still operating much like a small town. It was much bigger than that, but while it felt like a city, it never felt like "a big city". Traffic wasn't terrible, the people were alright, things were very normal.
Then we had a growth spurt.
Driving for me now is measured in increments of 30 or even 45 minutes or so. To get from one corner to another on a weekend can range over an hour. Grocery stores, malls and most restaurants are now always full. Half hour after open, half hour til close - those are the only times these places are empty...ish.
Construction was everywhere and still is. Every empty lot is snatched up. Empty fields that had been untouched for years suddenly had condos or restaurants sprouting up out of them.
Rent has skyrocketed and while we pay well here it's still not enough to live comfortably unless you have someone else making good cash as well. If you want to rent a house you're looking at 1500 minimum for what feels like a milk carton. Some people are asking a grand for a basement. And if you want to buy, 250-300k is a deal. Homes here don't typically go lower than that unless it's a condo. Or in a shit neighbourhood and is the size of my living room.
We've transformed from some of the friendliest people you could meet to very gloomy and isolated. No one feels at home. No one talks to one another. It's very distant even though there's a million of us. You still have the previous pleasant Calgarians but so many people came here in search of oil money or work in general that no one feels at home. It's tough to explain without seeing it everyday.
And money. My oh my, everyone is rolling in it. Yet no one seems to be content.
When you say your city is being diluted I know precisely what you mean. It's happening here, still.
I hope very much that Austin doesn't follow this path. Austin and Calgary are very similar in size and population. I would hate to see this happen to your home. We're kind of past the boom phase and settled in and not much has changed. I feel more boxed in than ever. I lived in Windsor outside Detroit and saw first hand a city fall apart while this one blossomed. It's interesting to see how people react to these changes. In Detroit people are very humble and genuine, and and seem appreciative of what they have. Here, no one seems to appreciate our good fortune. It's not viewed as fortune at all. It's taken for granted as though it's what we deserve and will never go away.
I'd be interested to hear about how Austin grows over time.
That all sounds very familiar, unfortunately.
If you think of a city in terms of its character, it's created by residents. Beyond a certain rate of growth, though, that character is determined to a greater and greater degree by people who haven't lived in the city very long. That changes a city forever--hopefully, in a good way, but there's no going back.