Despite the pandemic, 2020 really put Austin on the map, popularizing it as an up-and-coming hub for young professionals, startups and celebrities from big cities across the U.S.
In fact, Austin's A-list is steadily growing. Well-known Austinites like Willie Nelson, Matthew McConaughey and Kendra Scott have been singing the praises of the weirdest city in Texas for years now, but 2020 brought some new arrivals and 2021 is ready for more.
So who moved to Austin in 2020?
In a $100 million deal with Spotify, podcast host, devil's advocate and iconoclast Joe Rogan uprooted his Los Angeles setup and moved it to Austin in July. Since then, Rogan has been making waves around Austin in every which way. From setting up his spaceship-like studio to having drinks with Greg Abbott in the Governor's Mansion, Rogan has made himself at home in the Lone Star State.
James Van Der Beek
After a difficult year in 2019, "Dawson's Creek" actor James Van Der Beek traded in his "concrete jungle" in Beverly Hills for the luscious hill country. Van Der Beek, his wife and all five kids loaded up and moved to a 36-acre compound just outside of Austin in October… after a 10-day road trip to see the sights along the route from California to Texas.
Elon Musk (Probably)
Das baby kann noch keinen löffel benutzen https://t.co/UETqVIA4BP— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk) 1595307493.0
Though Musk confirmed he now lives in Texas, the tech mogul still has yet to confirm his move to Austin and is notorious for his need for privacy. With Tesla's Gigafactory and the Elon Musk Foundation putting down roots in Austin, it just makes sense to see him here. Multiple sources confirmed to Austonia earlier this month, Musk was looking at Austin homes to live in.
Even though few celebrities have confirmed a 2021 Austin emigration, there are a few leads. Here's who is or could be coming to the capital city in 2021:
Distressing fans of "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" everywhere, reports that Chris Harrison is moving to Austin have surfaced, revealing the "humble servant and host to Bachelor Nation" is building a house in the Barton Creek area. Fear not, Bachelor fans, Harrison has reportedly said he is not leaving the show.
Debby Ryan and Joshua Dun
Newlyweds Debby Ryan, actress and former Disney star, and Joshua Dun, drummer for Twenty-One Pilots have made some important decisions in Austin—like holding their impromptu wedding right here in Travis County. Ryan spent several years living in Texas during her childhood and Dun, an Ohio-native, said Austin was "tight" on Facebook in 2016. Seems like a match made in heaven.
When the "Dazed and Confused" alumna hosted the Texas Film Festival at Austin Studios back in March, the pandemic had scarcely begun. The indie movie actress is well-acquainted with Austin, having shot several movies here, she'd fit right in. She said she loves Austin so much, she would even be happy quarantining here. Plus, she was pictured in front of a longhorn in August. Coincidence?
The Queer Eye Fab 5
In true Austin fashion, the Fab 5 announced via El Arroyo's famous sign that they would be filming season six of "Queer Eye" here in the capital city. In fact, Jonathan Van Ness, the hair expert on the show, has allegedly been living in Austin since the production of the show was put on pause—he even adopted a dog from Austin Pets Alive!. Though the other fab guys are happily living across the U.S., the gang would all be right at home here.
Here's to a famously fabulous 2021 in ATX!
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By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.
What's new in Austin food & drink this week:
- Nau's Enfield Drug closing after losing their lease. Did McGuire Moorman Lambert buy the building, with its vintage soda fountain?
- Nixta Taqueria Chef Edgar Rico named to Time Magazine's Time 100 Next influencer list, after winning a James Beard Award earlier this year.
- Question: From what BBQ joint did pescatarian Harry Styles order food this week?
- Austin Motel is opening the pool and pool bar Wednesday nights in October for Freaky Floats.
- Vincent's on the Lake closing due to "economic conditions and low water levels [at Lake Travis]."
- Cenote has closed its Windsor Park location. The East Cesar Chavez location remains open.
- The Steeping Room on N. Lamar has closed.
- Local startup It's Skinnyscored new financing for its gluten-free pasta business.
- P. Terry's opened a new location in Kyle, at 18940 IH-35.