West Campus, Austin, Texas
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West Campus is a neighborhood in central Austin, Texas west of Guadalupe Street (the Drag) and its namesake, the University of Texas at Austin. Due to its proximity to the university, West Campus is heavily populated by college students. The area is known for its colorful residential buildings.
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In the mid-2000s new zoning changes were enacted in order to increase the number of students in the area. This led to construction of new large apartment and condominium projects. In a five-year period ending in 2009, 2,400 apartment and condominium units were constructed.
University of Texas at Austin
The biggest changes to West Campus in recent years have come about as a result of the University Neighborhood Overlay (UNO) Plan, a city initiative passed in 2004. The UNO plans were "intended to help create a residential district that is close to the campus, consolidating some of the student housing that is scattered throughout the city, and thereby reducing transient student traffic to campus from outside, and reducing the transient parking requirements around West Campus."
The plan seeks to bring University of Texas students closer to campus, and to create a denser, urban environment in order to provide more space for the growing student population.
Due to the proximity of the West Campus area to the university, it is close to University facilities such as the Blanton Museum of Art, the Harry Ransom Center, and the LBJ Library. The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, which features an IMAX theater, is also nearby. Pease Park is on the western border at Lamar Boulevard.
West Campus is a community that is a collection of individual neighborhoods. Chuck Lindell of the Austin American-Statesman said that West Campus is bounded roughly by West 29th Street, Guadalupe Street, North Lamar Boulevard, and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Areas west of San Gabriel tend to be single-family houses, while the area oriented to students of the University of Texas at Austin are located to the east. Some residents believe that San Gabriel Street is the boundary of West campus. Many houses are bungalows.
The eastern boundary of West Campus is a major commercial area known as "The Drag" or Guadalupe Street, where clothing stores, restaurants, bookstores (including the University COOP), and venues are across the street from the University.
The fraternity and sorority life at UT Austin is centered at West Campus. Many small businesses are located in West Campus.
The Caswell Heights subdivision is in the southwest corner of the West Campus area.
West Campus is in the Austin Independent School District.
West Campus has among the highest population densities in the City of Austin. In 2000 the area had about 10,000 people. Due to the influx of new apartments and condominiums, by 2009, according to Chuck Lindell of the Austin American-Statesman, the area may have had over 17,000 residents. As of 2009 many young professionals, faculty members of the University of Texas at Austin, and retirees live in West Campus.
West Campus houses a variety of architecture and a wide range of mansions, houses, apartments, and is constantly growing.
West Campus area’s architecture is diverse, with 80-year-old buildings often found next door to modern condos and apartments. Craftsman homes, bungalows, historic mansions, duplexes, and apartments can all be found in this area despite its small geographic size.
This neighborhood is marked by the wide range of student organizations and Greek communities that occupy it. West Campus is home to more than 50 Greek organizations, more than 12 co-ops, organized by the Inter-Cooperative Council (ICC), and many other student organizations.
Surrounding West Campus is “The Drag’”, which houses restaurants and shops.
As of 2009 the Austin Police Department (APD) places about half of the patrol officers from its central-west division in West Campus. Cmdr. Chris Noble of APD says that this is due to the large population in West Campus and not due to a bad crime rate. The community has a large amount of foot traffic. In 2009 Noble said that the foot traffic increases "nuisance" crimes such as fighting, excess noise, and theft, while it acts as a deterrent to some crimes. Noble said "The notorious crimes, mainly the murders - absolutely nothing about that is the result of the neighborhood. Those people were targeted, and it could've happened anywhere in this city, not just West Campus. Violent crime in that area is almost nonexistent. The biggest issues we have are people getting their cars broken into and their bikes stolen." Noble said "you have a greater chance of getting your head bashed in Northwest Hills than downtown, and even less of a chance in the campus area. It's an absolutely great place to live - if you are willing to put up with the university (crowd)."
In 2009 Chuck Lindell of the Austin American-Statesman said "Despite being an area with relatively little violence, West Campus has been home to some of Austin's most notorious recent crimes". In August 2005 Jennifer Cave was shot to death. Two months later, William "Trey" Ehrhardt, a fourth-year (senior) University of Texas at Austin student, was shot dead in a robbery at his apartment. In 2008 a man named Adrian Lopez was attacked and held captive in a house. The murder of John Goosey and Stacy Barnett occurred on July 21, 2009.
West Campus is an area occupied by mostly college students. It is ranked sixth amongst the 15 most dangerous neighborhoods. Based on a study by Neighborhood Scout, people who lived in the area had a 50% chance of becoming a victim of crime. Austin Police Chief Al Ells was interviewed by Austin American-Statesman staff. He mentioned that the area is challenging because of the number of students that live there. Police report that West Campus has small amounts of violence, but it has had several of Austin’s most violent crimes.
In 2012, the Austin American-Statesman reported an alleged bleach balloon attack that occurred on 26th and Rio Grande. This was the only report given to police which made it hard for them to investigate the incident. A year after this balloon incident, a new report was given in August 2013. The University of Texas became involved with reviewing the attack through the office of the Dean of Students and the Campus Climate Response Team. The repetition of this incident caused UT students to protest with a march to the scene of the incident. However, after further investigation, forensic testing of the clothing and balloon pieces concluded that no bleach was contained in the balloon. Without including the 2013 water balloon attack, Austin police have investigated four other alleged hate crimes within the past year.
On July 17, 2015, 19-year-old Stephen Sylvester was murdered at the Grandmarc apartments by his boyfriend Bryan Canchola. Canchola beat Sylvester after a night of drinking downtown at 4th Street for allegedly cheating on him. Canchola also strangled Sylvester's dog during the altercation. Sylvester was taken to the hospital by his roommate but for unknown reasons went back to the Grandmarc apartments before being treated. Canchola then called 9-1-1 and told the dispatcher Sylvester was unconscious and bleeding from his head. Sylvester was taken to the hospital where he died from his injuries. Canchola was taken into custody and where he faces murder and animal endangerment charges.
Austin Independent School District operates public schools.
- Colton Pitonyak, perpetrator of the Murder of Jennifer Cave
- James Richard "Ricky" Thompson, the perpetrator of the Murder of John Goosey and Stacy Barnett (both victims lived in West Campus at the time of their deaths, while Thompson at one time lived there with his mother)
- Chang, Yushan (2006). Newcomer's Handbook Neighborhood Guide. First Books. p. 201. ISBN 978-0-912301-70-9.
- Lindell, Chuck. "Area west of UT relatively safe, officials say." Austin American-Statesman. July 26, 2009. Available on LexisNexis. "The most infamous West Campus crime was the August 2005 shooting death of Cave in the apartment of her friend, Colton Pitonyak, at 2529 Rio Grande St."
- "West Campus - Student oriented neighborhood adjacent to the UT Campus". Longhorn Leasing. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
- "Headlines." Austin Chronicle. Friday July 31, 2009. Retrieved on February 17, 2013.
- "New report of possible hate crime near UT". KVUE. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
- "UT officials: No bleach found in balloons thrown last week, last year". Statesman. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
- "Austin police: Report of bleach balloon attack in West Campus". Statesman. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
- "History." Austin Peace Academy. Retrieved on February 9, 2016. "1906 Nueces Street, Austin, TX 78705" and "5110 Manor Road, Austin, TX 78723"
- Brick, Michael. "Closing of murder case involving UT grads opens window into shadowy business of marijuana dealing." The Dallas Morning News. September 26, 2010. Retrieved on February 17, 2013.