Driving onto stage Thursday night to the tune of a Dr. Dre song, CEO Elon Musk clad in a cowboy hat and Tesla belt buckle gave remarks on the automaker’s history, production plans and the new $1.1 billion Giga Texas site, declaring it “the most advanced car factory that earth has ever seen.”
Roughly 15,000 people traveled from near and far to attend the grand opening of the headquarters with a Cyber Rodeo theme. The night featured fireworks, a drone display, a petting zoo and the start of delivery for Texas-made Teslas.
The factory is the product, Musk said. He provided metrics like that it's taller than the Burj Khalifa if flipped on its side, and joked about how it could fit 194 billion hamsters. But with 10 million square feet of floor space, views of downtown Austin and 70,000 solar panels, Musk has big plans for it.
Drones!pic.twitter.com/1p68OETujs— Sawyer Merritt \ud83d\udcc8\ud83d\ude80 (@Sawyer Merritt \ud83d\udcc8\ud83d\ude80) 1649383873
Tesla aims to have half a million Model Y units pumped out each year, which he claimed would be the highest capacity line in the world. Next year, Cybertruck production will start.
Musk acknowledged the delays on the highly anticipated vehicle and showed off the most recent iteration of the pickup with the stylistic choice to remove door handles. “I can’t wait to have this baby in production,” Musk said. "It’s going to be epic.”
He hyped the crowd up with multiple other goals: the world’s biggest casting machine, plans to make Giga Texas the biggest cell factory globally, and moving to a “massive scale that no company has achieved in the history of humanity.”
Scaling, he emphasized, matters with respect to making an environmental impact. An ad before his remarks began said Tesla owners saved 8 metric tons of CO2 last year. Still, Musk pointed to a bar graph while on stage showing Tesla’s vehicle output compared to the rest of the world market, estimating it at a little more than 1%.
“We want to try to get to, I don’t know, 20%. As much as we can to move the needle,” Musk said. “This is why scale matters. In order to make a difference, a real big difference to sustainability, we have to make a lot of cars... to transition the world to sustainable technology as quickly as possible.”
Cyber Rodeo begins! All Giga Texas made carspic.twitter.com/toFuvWJTdM— Omead Afshar (@Omead Afshar) 1649355460
Texan Tesla enthusiasts already had merch to show their pride with the Giga Texas belt buckle, but the party dug into Texan culture even more with bull rides, an actual bull, Teslas formatted into the Texas flag and a boot statue.
Some locals attended the grand opening including EV-only rideshare app Earth Ride and representatives from Del Valle Independent School District, which let school out early for the event.
Representatives from the DVISD Board of Trustees, Superintendent Dr. Tielle and Workforce Development team are representing the community tonight at the @telsa grand opening. We continue to open the doors of opportunity for students through our unique partnerships! #cyberrodeopic.twitter.com/BCMkUvpt3C— Del Valle ISD (@Del Valle ISD) 1649378513
Musk addressed the question, “Why Austin?”
“California is great, and we're continuing to expand in California,” Musk said. “But we ran out of room. And so we need a place where we can be really big, and there's no place like Texas.”
The state’s business-friendly reputation has driven Tesla, Samsung and other tech giants to Central Texas in recent years. Before Thursday night’s festivities started, Gov. Greg Abbott went on FOX Business noting his talks with the CEO in the early stages of Tesla establishing a presence in Austin.
Two years ago, I told @elonmusk that Texas moves at the speed of business.\n\nTonight, @Tesla officially opens their new Gigafactory in Austin.\n\nThis mile-long Gigafactory was built in just under a year and a half.\n\nOnly possible in the Lone Star State.pic.twitter.com/fXEGzqAhyW— Greg Abbott (@Greg Abbott) 1649364917
“We’re 10 minutes from the airport. 15 minutes from downtown, central logistics hub. We’ve got access to awesome talent,” Musk said. “Thank you, Austin. Thank you, Travis County,” Musk said to cheers.
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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.