When Molly Foley moved from New York City to Austin for her software job in early March, she says she found her “big Texas glow up.”
She says her apartment near downtown has so much more space. “It’s actually kind of wild. I think I doubled the size of my apartment,” Foley said.
Foley and others are moving to and near downtown in droves. In a new report from ApartmentData.com analyzing market trends over the past three months, the downtown, South Congress and Barton Springs area ranked at the top for hottest submarket.
It's yet another sign of downtown healing from the pandemic when all the fun of living downtown disappeared and the convenience of it stopped applying for many as work from home became the norm. But as people got vaccinated, workers were called back to the office, and dining and nightlife saw a revival, drawing in more renters.
“It was unprecedented. We've never seen anything like that before,” said Cindi Reed, vice president of sales at apartmentdata.com. “Coming out of COVID, there was just a huge shift in people's geography. A lot of people moved into the Sun Belt, and Texas just really got hit hard.”
Foley noticed she’s coming in a while later after the high pace of moves in 2021, but that it’s still cool to be part of the wave of young professionals moving to Austin.
Offices in Austin have the highest occupancy in the nation, according to a recent report, which means downtown is filled with workers that may want to live nearby.
“Tech in New York is also pretty established, but I think what’s kind of exciting about being in Austin is that you notice a lot of new companies being established here, and a lot of companies moving headquarters here and moving entire offices here,” Foley said.
When Foley was on the apartment hunt, some of the qualities that caught her attention included the amenities at her place and the walkability in her area. She’d be content staying there if rent doesn’t go up too high by the time she’s due for a renewal.
The apartment search of today is likely going to require a higher budget than in years past. But some in Austin are able to take that on, especially in the tech industry. Austin is the best-paying city in Texas for software engineers and the median compensation for big tech workers at Google and Meta is in the range of six figures.
Reed said last year saw skyrocketing occupancy and caused rental rates in most Texas markets to grow by over 20%. In Austin, it was 24%. For Class A apartments downtown, that meant rents went from $2,300 a month to almost $2,800 a month on average, Reed said.
Rising rents are a concern shared by many in Austin. And if you’re not into renting, alternative options are scarce. Reed says the apartment demand is linked to low availability in the residential market.
“There’s all these people moving here wanting to buy homes are now becoming renters. So that's, that's also driving our rental rates and our absorption rates up,” Reed said. “So until we can deliver more residential homes and more private communities, we're really in a kind of a deprived state of housing.”
- 43 story office tower coming to downtown Austin - austonia ›
- Downtown Austin is a great experience, 78% of residents say ... ›
- Tech's takeover in downtown Austin is just beginning - austonia ›
- Cielo breaking ground on Downtown Austin 46-story tower - austonia ›
- Take a ride in Ford's new electric vehicles in downtown Austin with ... ›
- Facebook's Meta takes all office space in Austin's tallest tower, signs ... ›
- No suspect in custody after two men found shot downtown - austonia ›
- Residents at downtown complex go weeks without power - austonia ›
- Lead architect behind new Meta tower gives inside look into soon-to-be tallest building in Austin - austonia ›
- Amid celebration of downtown making pandemic recovery, some worry its sleek and luxury feel will exclude - austonia ›
- Historic trestle bridge on Third Street could get a new life - austonia ›
- Two towers could crop up along Lady Bird Lake in waterfront district - austonia ›
- Gen Z is choosing Austin over other tech hubs like Denver and NYC - austonia ›
- West Sixth Street could gain retail, office space under plans for a mixed-use development - austonia ›
- From the capitol to now: Austin's tallest buildings through the years - austonia ›
- Could Austin's suburbs win over companies for office space? - austonia ›
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.