History of the Upper Boggy Creek Neighborhoods: Cherrywood

By Gordon Bennett

The beginning of what is known as the Cherrywood neighborhood date from the 1930s. Farm and dairy land situated between the city limits and the newly opened Robert Mueller Municipal Airport (1930-1999) was subdivided into a number of housing developments. The community identity of “Cherrywood” evolved during the 1980s, taking its name from one of the two major through streets in the neighborhood— Cherrywood Road. Prior to this time, the area had no single identity. It was a collection of smaller communities known variously as French Place, Concordia, Avalon, Delwood, Duplex Nation, and Schieffer among others.

From its earliest days, surrounding roads have geographically defined the collection of subdivisions that would later become the Cherrywood neighborhood. On the west it was bounded by East Avenue (a once grand parkway later reduced to the IH-35 frontage roads). On the south it was bounded by Manor Road which once served as the primary route to the small rural community of Manor. On the east it was bounded by Airport Boulevard. By the beginnings of the 1960s this triangle was almost built out with a variety of housing types. These included bungalows, small cottages, two-story stucco duplexes and single-family houses, ramblers, to even a few late nineteenth and early twentieth century houses— many of these were moved to their current sites from other areas of Austin.

Patterson Park was added complete with swimming pool and the Blondie Pharr Tennis Center. Asbury United Methodist and Genesis Presbyterian established congregations. Maplewood Elementary School opened in 1951 and ever since has doubled as an informal community center.

In 1990 the aging Delwood shopping center was rehabilitated and expanded. The enlarged shopping center replaced the adjacent poorly maintained apartments and a motel. The “new”Delwood Shopping Center is anchored by Fiesta Mart. Along with the renovation of the Delwood Shopping Center, another adjacent apartment complex, Silver Ridge, were remodeled as well.

Despite its inner city location, the neighborhood feel remains tenaciously suburban. Unlike residents of many other close-in neighborhoods, those in Cherrywood have limited neighborhood-oriented shopping opportunities. Along the perimeter of the neighborhood, many businesses have and continue to serve region- and city-wide markets: adult-oriented entertainment, off-site airport parking, steel fabrication, trailer rental, and motels. The need for an automobile for most daily trips remains. As a result, the narrow, shady residential streets are filled with cars. This dependence on the automobile has become a chief neighborhood concern. A well-attended neighborhood visioning exercise in 1999 gave top priority to “. . .safe, walkable streets.”

Not until the 1990s did the area’s convenient location and undervalued properties begin to pique market interest— spurred on by the closing of Robert Mueller Municipal Airport. During this decade, more and more people chose Cherrywood as a place to live rather than as one to invest in rental property. Along every street, remodels and additions are sprouting up— changing the face of neighborhood.

As the house facades in the Cherrywood neighborhood have changed, so have the faces of the residents. The changes can be seen in the faces of the ubiquitous pedestrians as they walk their pets, their pre-schoolers, and themselves. Children may already outnumber retirees. New faces are common among the old-timers at neighborhood meetings. A real community is forming and maturing.

In 1996 an enterprising UT student took it upon himself to establish a quarterly Cherrywood newsletter,“The Flea”. Others members of the community began meeting to reconstitute the on-again off-again Cherrywood Neighborhood Association (CNA). One of the revitalized CNA’s first presidents established an e-mail list-serve to all residents to communicate among themselves outside the confines of association meetings. These initial steps have matured. “The Flea” is delivered free to every doorstep and self-supported through advertising and now has a new and expanded editorial team.

Six years later, the newsletter continues to grow richer in content with every issue. The CNA, led by a 13- member Steering Committee, meets quarterly and sponsors a host of projects. The e-mail list-serve, now dubbed NeighborNet, is subscribed to by ten percent of Cherrywood households. A Web site at http://asnic.utexas.edu/~bennett/nhome.htm completes the network. With newsletter, regular meetings, NeighborNet, and Web presence, CNA communications are about as good as they could be.

The neighborhood’s challenge is to adjust to and control the impact of growth. Our established residential community is surrounded by urban pressures— an expanding downtown, a future widened freeway, two universities, two shopping centers, a hospital, a railroad, and the impending redevelopment of the former RMMA site. Even if growth recedes from the boom years, Travis County by 2025 will add perhaps 350,000 people. As generational values shift, many newcomers will often choose urban over suburban lifestyles.

Traffic and mobility issues are of significant concern to neighborhood residents.

Existing residents already are troubled by dangerous local traffic. Newcomers, for their part, are likely to regard avoiding clogged freeways and arteries as a primary reason to locate in an inner city neighborhood. These new arrivals and long-term residents can be expected to be increasingly receptive to improved transportation options— buses, bikeways, rail, and to urban design that brings shopping and services within walking or biking distance.

Transportation will be an issue that has and will affect the Cherrywood and adjacent neighborhood for the foreseeable future. Ever since East Avenue became a highway in 1954, what is now IH-35 has continually expanded. It was raised to Interstate standards, an upper deck was added in 1975, and now a Major Investment Study looks to significantly widen it. Rail options are yet more complex and lie farther in the future and surrounded with more uncertainty. For the immediate and intermediate future, gridlocked auto traffic city-wide appears unavoidable. Living in Cherrywood will be one way to avoid much of it.

Attitudes toward urban living are changing among the neighborhood’s residents. Existing residents are slowly settling in to the idea that Cherrywood is less of a suburb— epitomized by distances from commercial centers, larger yards, and privacy— than urban enclave fixed on convenience, amenities, and community. New residents, in addition to fleeing commuter lifestyles, will be likely to have a more comprehensive urban experience.
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Upper Boggy Creek Neighborhood Plan
In his book Edge City, Joel Garreau posits that American home buyers may have gone through three waves. They moved out of the traditional city and commuted to jobs— suburbanization. Marketplaces followed them when people wearied of driving downtown— the “malling” of America. Residents and shopping opportunities were followed by jobs that moved “where most of us have lived and shopped for two generations” (Edge City, 1992). The attractiveness of Cherrywood-like urban living may constitute a fourth wave. Edge City is no longer for everyone.

Our interest in the UBC Neighborhood Plan is to maximize our chances to enjoy the positives this major trend promises, and to escape its negatives.

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