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Homes, homeless, or history: Residents debate future of Muny golf course

Lions Municipal Golf Course in West Austin is up for redevelopment—and Austinites have strong visions for what it could be. (City of Austin)

The future of West Austin's Lions Municipal Golf Course, or Muny, has been debated for years, but the conversation entered a new phase on Monday evening when the city hosted the first of many public meetings to collect feedback on the site's redevelopment.

Nearly 140 attended the Zoom event and dozens offered suggestions, ranging from preserving the historic golf course, which was the first public golf course in the South to racially desegregate, and now hosts 60,000 rounds of golf each year, to building affordable housing for homeless residents to creating a Central Park-type green space.


The city of Austin has leased the 141-acre, 18-hole public golf course from the University of Texas since 1936. But two years ago, smarting from state budget cuts and approaching the end of its 31-year lease with the city of Austin, UT decided that it could no longer lease the course at a discounted rate—about $500,000 a year—and offered to sell it for $110 million, far below its 2019 appraised value of $205 million but too steep a price for City Council.

Now under a month-to-month lease extension, the city is working with UT to develop a redevelopment proposal that serves both parties' interests. UT wants to know what it can sell and redevelop on the Brackenridge tract, which includes Muny, and the city wants to preserve the course and other public green space. "I've long championed the notion that we should plan and manage our growth and not simply unleash it," Council Member Alison Alter said.

Many of the speakers, including representatives from the West Austin Neighborhood Group, Save Historic Muny District, the Muny Conservancy and the West Austin Youth Association, called on the city to "Save Muny" during the Monday meeting, citing its historic significance, public access and in-demand tee times.

Ben Crenshaw is a two-time Masters champion and co-chair of the Muny Conservancy, which is working to raise money to purchase Muny. He started playing golf at the course as a child. "To me, it is part of what I call an incalculable asset to the community and has been for nearly a hundred years," he said Monday.

Other residents suggested alternative options, from affordable housing for homeless residents to a mixed-use development similar to Mueller. "I just don't think it's justifiable that the city has nearly 1,000 acres of golf course land but some of the parks are becoming unusable because they're overcrowded," said Ben Yasui, who recommended the latter. "From an environmental perspective, a golf course is just not a green space."

Staff will use feedback from this meeting and others in the coming months to develop its rezoning recommendations, which will ultimately go to council for approval. Unlike a typical zoning case, in which a developer would submit a request for rezoning, city staff will initiate zoning cases for the Brackenridge tract, along with three other UT-owned properties. "Our goal here is to hear from as many people as possible," said Jerry Rusthoven, chief zoning officer for the housing and planning department.

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‘Like speed dating of cats’ at Purr-fecto Cat Lounge
Purr-fecto Cat Lounge

Lina Martinez with her newly adopted cat, Emmanuel, who she renamed Sullivan.

Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.

As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.

“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”

Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.

“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”

Actually, a purr-fect idea.

Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.

At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”

Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.

“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”

Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.

“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”

Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.

“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”

Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.

“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”

And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.

“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”

Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.

“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”

Austin's 7 Best Indian Restaurants

We all have those cravings for an amazing butter chicken or some authentic dosas with coconut chutney, but when I was thinking about where I wanted to go to satisfy my taste buds I realized that my list of great Indian food around Austin was surprisingly short. After doing some research and asking around, here is your list of the best Indian restaurants around town.

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