Local business to remain on South Congress

South Congress is undergoing a major development change and its forcing out several locally owned businesses. Many consider the area the heart and soul of Austin and want to keep the Austin centric vibe. As a result, some are teaming up to make sure it remains and at least one store will get to stay.

For Off the Wall owner Gail Armstrong, the growth of Austin has meant big changes to the neighborhood.

"South Austin was the neglected step-child for a long time. People didn't pay much attention to us over here, which was good in some respects. Now the whole city has been discovered basically," Armstrong says.

New eyes on the area means new developments and it isn't always keeping with the area's feel.

Monica Alcantara with Parts and Labour says, "I think that trying to keep it in a smaller, local collective would be in its best interest because that's what people understand South Congress to be...full of smaller local shops, not hotels and parking garages." 

A few months ago Parts and Labour was among several businesses on the same block forced to move. In its place will be a mixed use office retail facility. The changes are not being well received by some.

Kristina Ramirez says, "We always go shopping and that's a thing we love do together and walk around and be able to do that.  And here, knowing that the developer is going to come and take away these small businesses is upsetting."

Off the Wall has been on South Congress for 23 years. Armstrong says, "We weren't the first to re-populate this area. There were some shops here before us that helped bring the area back to life. What made it good back then was that it was inexpensive and we could afford to be here and we've grown with it and made it this far." 

Armstrong says they are now retiring and planning to concentrate on an online store and pop up shops. This left the property owner searching for a replacement. So it may come as no surprise that Parts and Labour is moving right in.

Alcantara says, "because their interest is with keeping South Congress classic. They reached out to us and asked if we would like to rent the space and we were able to work that out." 

That's welcome news for Angelica Lara. Lara says she's not opposed to change as long as the character remains.

"It's a positive but we also need to keep what keeps Austin unique from the rest of the world and the rest of the United States. As we allow these developers to come, we're losing it slowly but surely. I just hope as a city we can come together and try to keep what we still have remaining still alive." 

Parts and Labour says its last day at its current spot is January 31st. It'll move into its new spot in March.

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