A 17-year-old confronts a beloved neighborhood changing around her.
Driving down Jefferson Boulevard, a person could start to feel like an outsider in her own city. Southwest Center Mall is being renovated. New restaurants and apartment buildings go up. The development of Bishop Arts creeps towards the heart of Oak Cliff, Jefferson.
Oak Cliff is changing rapidly and sending some longtime residents adrift. In the midst of these tear-downs and highrises, it’s easy to forget the families who lived in the buildings before.
Through the changes, there is a generation who saw it all unfold. What do kids who have grown up in Oak Cliff think of gentrification? We polled these five rising high school seniors to find out.
Carlos Cortez, 17, has lived in south Oak Cliff his whole life.
“There’s a lot more housing available. The affordable part is the point that gets lost in translation. There’s always something being torn down.” Cortez describes Little Mexico, now Uptown, as an example of what Oak Cliff could become. “I think any time a bridge or any new methods of transportation is made more convenient, that’s always gonna be a problem for people who’ve already lived there.”
Angelica Vega, 17, has lived in north Oak Cliff for 14 years.
“Social media makes it seem like our neighborhood is so pretty and such a nice place to live in, so more people want to live here.”
Vega’s parents’ house in the Bishop Arts area receives frequent offers from real-estate investors even though the family says they do not wish to sell.
“They usually talk about how we have a good placement in the neighborhood,” Vega says. “And they offer benefits like money and how they could easily give us cash.”
With rising prices in her neighborhood, Vega is bleak about the future. She says she doubts she’d ever be able to buy near her parents when she’s older: “There’s a house on my street that we wanted to show to my cousin. She couldn’t afford it.”
Rosilda Amezquita, 17, who has lived in Cockrell Hill her whole life.
Jefferson Boulevard is a hot-spot for culture but Amezuita says she fears for the future. “All these quinceañera businesses that have always been there. The fruterias or paleterias are all leaving because they can’t afford to rent there.”
Juan Diaz, 17, who has lived in north Oak Cliff his whole life.
“We have to consider whether [shoving out] hundreds of people from the places they’ve been living their whole lives is worth fixing a couple of streets or making the city look nicer.”
Diaz’s parents also have recieved multiple unsolicited offers on their house. “My parents were able to afford [a house] and I’m pretty sure it was for less than $100,000, but now I’m sure that they could sell the house and get over $100,000.”
Citlalli Lopez, 17, has lived in Oak Cliff for 12 years.
“It’s scary because I would hate to see a loss of culture within the Oak Cliff area,” she says.
Lopez and classmates made a documentary called “Gentrification in Oak Cliff.” She blames gentrification for the destruction of culture and displacement of families. She believes facilitated transportation leads to gentrification. “Little Mexico in the Uptown area didn’t start to become gentrified until after they placed the tollway right there,” she says.
Some of her family’s friends have moved to areas such as Duncanville because they could no longer afford to live in Oak Cliff. Lopez’s neighborhood near Kiest Park is seeing changes as well. The house right next to hers was torn down and replaced with a house she described as looking “nothing like the other houses surrounding it.”