Austin vs. Nashville: The Live Music Capital of the World and Music City compete for talent, tourists
Austin or Nashville? This question is a familiar one to aspiring musicians looking for a place to start their career, bachelor and bachelorette party planners in search of a fun destination and millennials escaping more expensive coastal cities.
Chris Broach, 44, is also asking. A musician who works a remote day job in tech, he lives in the Highland Park suburb north of Chicago with his wife and their three young children. The couple is considering a move to Austin or Nashville, drawn in by their music scenes, milder winters and relative affordability. "Housing-wise, we can get something for what we have now (in Chicago) that's probably double the size outside of Austin," he said. "It's not affordable where we're coming from."
Although Broach worries about the conservative state politics and extreme summers, he knows he likes Austin after touring here and playing at Fun Fun Fest and South by Southwest. "If it was between Austin and Nashville, I think Austin really wins for me," he told Austonia.
Those who live or have lived in Nashville, TN. or Austin, TX. This is coming from an artist's / musician's standpoint, mostly - but I'm interested in all feedback.
- Why should/shouldn't we move to Austin, TX?
- Why should/shouldn't we move to Nashville, TN?#Austin#Nashville
— Chris Broach (@chrisbroach) February 28, 2021
Here's how the two Southern capital cities stack up across 11 categories.
1. Music towns
Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World, is known for its festival scene—from Austin City Limits to South by Southwest—and iconic venues, such as Antone's, Broken Spoke and the Continental Club. It's also home to many successful musicians, including Willie Nelson, Gary Clark Jr., The Black Pumas and Shakey Graves.
Nashville is not only home to attractions like the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium and Country Music Hall of Fame but also a hub for recording studios, many of them located on Music Row, a National Treasure of the National Trust. RCA Studio B, built in 1957, is widely credited as the birthplace of the Nashville Sound and was once home to Elvis Presley. Other nearby studios have hosted everyone from Shania Twain and Taylor Swift to Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.
2. Expanding airportsBright skies ahead: Austin airport anticipates continued growth after pandemic turbulence(Austin-Bergstrom International Airport/Facebook)
Austin-Bergstrom has tripled its passenger numbers since opening in 1999. Between 2011 and 2019 it was the third-fastest growing airport in the country, and the Federal Aviation Administration ranked it second among medium-sized hubs in 2019 based on passenger boarding numbers (more than 8.5 million) and year-over-year growth (more than 10%).
Nashville International was the top-ranked medium-sized hub, with nearly 9 million passengers and 11.45% year-over-year growth. Similar to ABIA, the Nashville airport is in the midst of a major renovation and expansion project intended to meet growing demand.
3. Must eats
Austin has a lot to offer on the food front, from barbecue worth queuing for at Franklin and La Barbecue to breakfast tacos at countless joints around town.
Nashville is known for its hot chicken, especially when served at Hattie B's Hot Chicken and Prince's Hot Chicken Shack. (Tumble 22 in Austin is a good shortcut when a trip to Tennessee isn't possible.)
4. Party scenesWith loosened pandemic restrictions and a revived tourism economy, Austin's party boat businesses are anticipating a busy season—and letting out a sigh of relief. (Raudel HInojosa/Premier Party Cruises)
In addition to well-known going-out districts—Dirty Sixth and Rainey Street in Austin, Honky Tonk Highway in Nashville—both cities are magnets for bachelor and bachelorette parties.
Nashville takes first place and Austin ranks fifth, behind Scottsdale, Miami and Las Vegas, according to a 2021 travel trends report from Bach, a party planning service. As Austinites know, party members tend to seek out Airbnb house rentals, spend their days on pedal pubs and booze cruises, and can be easily spotted posing in matching outfits, sometimes with sashes.
5. Housing costsSteep competition, cash offers and ‘hockey stick’ prices: On the ground of Austin’s ‘brutal’ housing market
Austin is more expensive than Nashville, with the steepest increase in the housing category, according to the Council for Community & Economic Research's cost of living index. A person moving from Nashville to Austin can expect to pay nearly 23% more in housing costs.
The median income in the city of Austin is $71,576, compared to $59,828 in Nashville, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The median home sales price in the Austin metro is $465,000, compared to $400,000 in the Nashville metro, according to the Austin Board of Realtors and Greater Nashville Realtors.
The Austin metro showed the fifth-largest decline in housing affordability among 50 U.S. markets, according to a recent report by First American Financial Corp. The median home price in the city of Austin hit an all-time high of $566,500 in May, rising more than $142,450 year-over-year, according to ABoR. And prices across the five-county Austin metro are rising at an even faster rate, worsening an existing affordability crisis and pricing out many aspiring first-time homebuyers.
6. Millennial migration
Millennials are flowing out from most of the largest U.S. cities—including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles—and headed West and South, according to SmartAsset's 2021 Where Millenials Are Moving report. Austin ranked fourth, with a net migration of 5,686 millennials in 2019, and Nashville ranked 21st, with a net migration of 1,893 millennials.
Although Austin beats Nashville in terms of millennial in-migration, Nashville is one of the few cities gaining more Austinites than the reverse. Between 2014 and 2018, 519 Nashville residents moved to Austin while 741 Austinites moved to Nashville, for a net loss of 222, according to an Austin Chamber analysis of U.S. Census Bureau.
7. Local politicsTrump supporters protest election results outside governor's mansion
Austin and Nashville are both liberal capital cities in conservative states. During the 2020 presidential election, nearly 72% of Travis County residents voted for Joe Biden, compared to 46.5% of Texans, and nearly 65% of Davidson County residents did, compared to fewer than 38% of Tennesseans, according to Politico.
8. Sports cultureAustin FC is down 1-0 at the half against Nashville SC. (Austin FC/Twitter)
Both have new Major League Soccer teams. Austin FC debuted earlier this year only a year after Nashville SC became a member of the league. Nashville is currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, while Austin ranks 12th in the Western Conference, ahead of only Vancouver. Nashville SC beat Austin FC 1-0 in a May 23 match.
9. Population growth
Both cities posted double-digit population growth between 2010 and 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Austin, with a population of 978,908, grew 22.1%, and Nashville, with a population of 670,820, grew 11.2%.
With such popularity comes growing pains. Austin's affordability crisis—and attendant issues, such as homelessness—is deepening. Nashville shares these issues as well as others familiar to Austinites: transit expansion, crime reduction and school system improvements.
10. Bottoms upDesert Door distillery in Driftwood, Texas. (Emma Freer)
Austin and Nashville have strong drinking cultures, with craft breweries and distilleries galore. Austinites know and love local businesses from Austin Eastciders to Zilker Brewing Co., as well as destination sites such as Desert Door Distillery and Fredericksburg wineries.
Until 2009, only three distillers were allowed to produce alcohol in the state of Tennessee. Now they're more abundant: Corsair Distillery has two Nashville locations; H Clark Distillery produces gin, bourbon and whiskey; and Nelson's Green Brier Distillery was revived by the founder's great-great-great-grandsons. Plus, there's always the Jack Daniel's Distillery.
11. Green spaces
Austinites love their wide open spaces, including Zilker Park, Hamilton Pool, Barton Springs and Lake Austin. Straddling the Colorado River, Austin ranked 45th among the 100 largest U.S. cities, according to the 2021 ParkScore index. It received its highest mark in investment and lowest mark in equity.
Nashville is known for Centennial Park, a 132-acre oasis that's home to a full-scale replica of The Parthenon, which was built for the 1897 Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition. It also straddles a river, the Cumberland, and ranked 86th on the 2021 ParkScore index, receiving its highest mark for acreage and lowest mark for access.
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Matias Segura swept his hand across a whiteboard in his office at AISD headquarters, describing how an entrance vestibule works. It might remind you of a sally port at a prison. The vestibule is designed to protect our children from the active shooters who have plagued our nation since Columbine in 1999.
“You start with the signage,” he said. “You know exactly where the entrance is, and that’s for first responders too. We really want to make sure we keep up with visitor patterns. If they come in, they go through a system. Driver’s license, background check, which takes about a minute. We have a software system.”
AISD Director of Operations Matias Segura explains the overall school construction and what the entry vestibule looks like. (Rich Oppel)
The vestibule has two sets of locked doors. The exterior set has an audio-visual intercom, operated by a desk officer who has a view of visitor parking, the building approach and the vestibule. If allowed in, a visitor is buzzed through and then faces questioning and clearance by the desk officer. The visitor is given a card-reader pass. If a second person attempts to “trail in” behind another visitor, he is trapped in the vestibule until his status is determined. The second set of doors, into the main school building, remains locked and shut. It is open when students arrive in the morning.
Thus, the days of walking into the school, maybe waving at the principal’s executive assistant and strolling off to the cafeteria for lunch with your daughter are gone, a relic of a more bucolic time when “active shooters” were never imagined. But one must ask, what do we give up for greater safety?
Austinites remembered the Uvalde shooting victims in a vigil at the Texas Capitol in May. (Tony Fuentes)
Some critics argue that we are at risk of losing traditional values in the redesign of schools, courthouses, hospitals, churches and shopping centers. Writing in The Washington Post, architecture critic Philip Kennicott said the nation’s gun culture “threatens an essential precondition for democracy: its public space… Ideals of openness, flow, transparency and access will no longer be sustainable.”
Segura contemplates the question. At 41, he has held his job as AISD director of operations for four and a half years. Prior to that he was a consultant who led the team to build Austin’s new courthouse. His Austin and Texas roots are deep. He was born here, graduated from Bowie High, and went off to Lubbock to earn a degree in civil engineering from Texas Tech. He returned to secure an MBA at the University of Texas at Austin. He and his wife Joy Burson-Segura have two daughters who attend AISD schools. Segura said he and his operations team love AISD, care deeply about their work, and want citizens “to see us as partners.”
Back to what we lose in hardening the schools.
Segura says, “We think about students’ health. Having daylight, bringing light into a hardened facility, being able to access outdoor learning areas, (which is) hypercritical, especially in what we have learned in the pandemic.” Segura doesn’t like the idea of moats around schools (exotic, expensive) nor of classroom bomb shelters (what would teachers and students think about their looming presence?), efforts that are being tried elsewhere.
Healthcare workers receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the AISD Performing Arts Center in Mueller in 2021. (Jordan Vonderhaar)
AISD must juggle school security with the historic use of our schools for other purposes, such as voting, PTA-PTO meetings, community fairs, and, more recently, COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and food distribution. AISD does not want to end those uses, so the challenge is to design schools with separate rooms or places for those uses.
Clearly, Segura has thought about balancing conflicting equities. For him, it’s not all locked doors and blank brick or concrete walls. He stresses the importance of building a culture that includes shared responsibility of all school employees where, for example, a custodian could ask a stranger whether they have a visitor’s badge. All staffers should be well-trained in security measures, knowledgeable about new technology, and committed to working as a team to protect students, teachers and others. “We are working very, very hard on the culture,” he says. “Also, we need (financial) investment if we are going to move the needle.”
Kennicott, the Washington Post critic, quotes the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan, a sociologist and New York Democrat, who said, “Architecture is inescapably a political art, and it reports faithfully for ages to come what the political values of a particular era were. Surely, ours must be openness and fearlessness in the face of those who hide in darkness.”
But that was in 2001. What messages will Austin’s new public schools convey to future generations about our 2021 political values?
“First and foremost, these are education spaces that belong to our community. Our objective is to create incredible learning experiences for our students and at the same time ensure that the students and staff are safe.” He said he wants people to view schools as “inspired,” places where they would want to send their children. “Great things are happening in that space,” and that teachers see a place where they want to work and where they feel safe.
Voters in AISD will decide Nov. 8 on a $2.44 billion bond package to provide “funding for improvements to enhance safety, centers on equity, benefits every campus, and addresses affordability,” according to AISD officials.
Ever had sushi delivered to you on a conveyor belt or tried Ukrainian borsch?
If you're looking for a restaurant that shakes up your dinner, try one of these newly-opened options.
Conveyor belt sushi
For a fun, interactive twist on your typical sushi dinner, head to Kura Revolving Sushi Bar. Upon sitting down, you’ll have a conveyor belt to one side, where you can pluck whichever plate piques your interest, or a screen that allows you to order plates a la carte. You’ll pay by the plate, which tends to be less than a few dollars each, and win prizes if you hit the right milestones.
Korean Egg Toast
Serving all things egg, Egg Bomb opened earlier this month at 808 North Lamar Blvd., taking over the former Ola Poke location. Egg Bomb specializes in Korean egg drop sandwiches, with toppings like cheese, caramelized onions, avocado, salmon and condiments; “Egg Tots,” or fries with eggs and toppings, as well as coffee and sides. You can also find egg toast and squid ink hotdogs at Oh K-Dog.
Tortas at La Plancha
With a desire to fill the torta-shaped whole they saw in Austin’s fare, co-owning couple Mariha Hinojosa and Julian Richmond opened La Plancha, 1701 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, on July 1. The Mexican sandwiches are served on a bolillo bun with toppings including avocado, barbacoa, queso fresco, refried beans, cheese, pickles and salsa. There are other options: Think papas fritas, street corn and mini-churros.
Ukrainian cuisine to-go
You can take your chicken Kyiv to-to at new takeout-only restaurant U-Cuisine, 5610 N. I-35, which opened in mid-June. Ukrainian chefs and owners Alla Shelest and Mariana Shelestiuk said they are trying to bring a taste of their home country amidst a difficult time in history. Try the chicken Kyiv, a dill and parsley-stuffed chicken breast rolled in breadcrumbs; borsch, a burgundy beetroot soup; Holubtsi, beef and pork cabbage rolls; and lviv syrnyk, a chocolatey raisin cheesecake.
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