Elon Musk may be moving to Texas, but another tech billionaire isn't following in his footsteps. Oracle founder Larry Ellison announced while he is leaving California, he is headed for blue waters.
We've compiled the latest Austin news and information to help you keep up with interesting stories and breaking news around the city. Here is what we have shared so far this week:
Dec. 15: Housing market isn't matching historic trends this time of year and 4 more headlines you might've missed
Real estate immune to pandemic: Austin's housing market was already hot before major tech companies started relocating here. KXAN reports that record-low housing inventory is causing homes to sell faster—35 days—and at higher levels—$441,000 median sales price—in Austin than usual. Even the usual holiday sales dip seems unlikely this year, experts claim.
Another Silicon Valley departure: Oracle may be moving here, but Oracle's founder is heading the other direction. Billionaire Larry Ellison already moved from California to Hawaii, using "the power of Zoom" to keep connected with the continental U.S. Ellison, the world's seventh-wealthiest person, also has some business interests in Hawaii, Austin Business Journal reports.
Return of The Pier?: Historic restaurant The Pier on Lake Austin could soon return long after being forced to shut down in the mid-2000s, but it won't make any progress until at least January, Austin Monitor reports. The Pier, a Lake Austin restaurant for 47 years, is attempting to reopen at its old location but requires a zoning change to make needed repairs. A Lake Travis version of the restaurant was short-lived.
Tiny desk treatment: Black Pumas recently hosted an at-home, stripped-down set for the Tiny Desk music series hosted by NPR. Playing a Tiny Desk show has become a right of passage for many musicians, adding to the accolades Black Pumas has received this year, including three more Grammy nominations to follow up their Best New Artist nod.
P. Terry's ventures south: The 19th location of P. Terry's Burger Stand will debut Wednesday in New Braunfels, representing the Austin-based chain's southernmost location yet. It's a precursor to P. Terry's first San Antonio location, CultureMap reports, originally scheduled for this fall but moved to summer 2021.
Dec 14: H-E-B responds to reports and 4 more headlines you might've missed
HEB leadership responds: After last week's report from VICE that anti-maskers caused H-E-B to relax mask enforcement, Austin Business Journal talked with one of the grocery company's executives about mask use in stores and supply chain issues. Just as VICE reported, ABJ learned that mask-less patrons are not forced to leave H-E-B stores.
Country great dies of COVID-19: Charley Pride, a country music legend and trailblazer, died this weekend from COVID-19 complications. Pride, 86, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame 20 years ago, becoming the first Black singer to receive such recognition. He's also one of only three Black members of the legendary country music venue Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Austin City Limits TV recognized his 1981 performance during Season 6 of the long-running live music series.
Latin voices during the pandemic: Voces Oral History Center has interviewed nearly 100 people as part of its "Voices of the Pandemic" project documenting how the Latinx community members has coped with COVID-19. Austin Monthly profiled The University of Texas project, which began in 1999 well before the pandemic.
Hemp farmers in Hays County: The first-ever Taste of Texas Hemp Cup, a contest recognizing the state's top hemp farmers, took place this weekend in Hays County. Hemp, used to produce legal CBD products sold in Texas, looks like marijuana but doesn't give you the psychoactive effect of THC. KVUE reports the contest attracted hemp growers from the far corners of the state.
Stock cars at COTA: When NASCAR visits the Circuit of the Americas racing venue next year, the entirety of the 3.41-mile road course will be utilized. Originally designed for Formula 1 racing, COTA has 20 turns as opposed to oval track used in most NASCAR races. Jalopnik reports the late May race will be part of a full NASCAR weekend of events at COTA that will also include the Truck Series.
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In May, Circuit of the Americas chairman Bobby Epstein looked back on 10 years of Formula 1's U.S. Grand Prix at COTA confident that the race would be here to stay in Texas. But sources tell Austonia that securing another contract may be in jeopardy.
Some insiders worry that COTA's 2021 Grand Prix race might be its last.
The multi-day fest from Oct. 22-24 will include a 56-lap race over the 3.3-mile track, food and musical performances from two acts, including Billy Joel at COTA's 1,500-acre facility in Southeast Austin. But after this year, the U.S.' first F1-specific track could lose its headline event.
The facility's inability to secure a contract thus far comes down to the Texas Legislature, a new threat in Miami, and, most importantly, money.
The first F 1 race will take place in Miami next year. (Hard Rock Stadium)
Every year, Formula 1 receives roughly $25 million from Texas' Major Events Reimbursement Program, a taxpayer-funded initiative that helps bring big sporting events like 2017's Houston Super Bowl to the state. A 2019 report by the Reimbursements Program on that year's race said the "data is inconclusive" on if the event has a positive or negative economic impact on the state with the resources given. In 2018, the Austin-American Statesman reported that COTA had brought back a total of $75.7 million between 2015 and 2017 for hosting the U.S. Grand Prix.
Legal issues have also barred Epstein and Co. from securing another 10-year contract earlier: in 2018, the company lost its yearly $25 million bid after failing to submit a human trafficking prevention plan as part of its yearly application.
That same year, F1 managing director of commercial operations Sean Bratches told the Associated Press that the organization hopes to stay at COTA "for many years to come."
However, in May, the racing league announced that it had secured a 10-year contract to hold the Miami Grand Prix as American interest in the sport soared following the three-season "Drive to Survive" documentary, which gives behind-the-scenes looks at drivers and races of the Formula One World Championship.
Epstein is optimistic about the new U.S. location and told Autoweek in May that "more race in our time zones are good for the sport."
"I think we're getting double the impact this way," Epstein said. "Miami should sell out huge the first year and maybe the second year and then after that, I think we'd be spitting audience if we were around the same time on the calendar. So the spread is fantastic."
Bobby Epstein recognizes the 1 millionth customer of COTA in 2013. (COTA/Facebook)
The new F1 venture may impact COTA's contract, however: in an opinion piece for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, writer Mac Engel said Texas is unlikely to fork over taxpayer money if the facility is no longer the only F1 track in the U.S.
According to Engel, the Major Events Reimbursements Program agrees to provide funding only "if Austin holds the only F1 race in the country."
Epstein hasn't addressed such claims; by contrast, he feels as though there's room for a third race in the U.S. as ticket sales rebound after COVID.
"In the first week, we sold pretty much all the tickets we put up for sale and we plan to break the 2019 attendance record," Epstein told Autoweek. "Texas was the first place to lift COVID-19 restrictions (in the U.S.) and put on sporting events, and we're full. We're at 100% capacity.
Despite ventures to diversify revenue at COTA—Epstein's USL soccer team Austin Bold has seen its own share of troubles, and the facility plans to develop into a multi-faceted entertainment arena complete with music venues, a waterpark, condominiums and an 11-story hotel—a loss of its primary event could be devastating for the $300 million complex.
F1 has rarely lasted more than a decade at venues in the U.S. over the last century; let's hope Austin breaks that curse.
COTA's media relations team did not immediately get back to Austonia for comment.
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Houston? Dallas? San Antonio? No, it has to be Austin.
We know Californians love Texas, but a recent string of posts on neighborhood platform Nextdoor in Santa Barbara, California, displays what the craze to move to Austin looks like.
When one user posted, "Hi neighbors, I want to buy a house in Houston, Texas any recommendations?" the responses flooded in displaying what the admiration for Austin looks like from the West Coast. Users mostly advised against a move to Houston; one person even wrote, "Austin is the ONLY place to consider!!"
While some defended H-town, saying, "Awesome place to live," one person wrote, "WORST PLACE TO LIVE." Reasons to not move to Houston from Californians' perspective included:
- "Foul air from refineries"
- "horrible flooding due to the flat Gulf coastal shelf"
- "crazy zoning"
- "racial prejudice"
- "super high humidity"
- "very conservative"
The comments were shifted to Austin's lush greenery, weather and acceptance of gay people.
Over the last five years, Austin has seen more migrants from California than any other state, according to an Austin Chamber of Commerce report. The Austin appeal from residents living in more congested places like California became more prevalent during the pandemic when stay-at-home orders were issued and people sought more space.
It wasn't just Austin though; lots of other Sunbelt cities saw an influx in their housing market as a result of people working from home and looking for a lower cost of living. And that included Texas in general, with people flooding to various Texas cities.
But it hasn't come with resistance. The "Don't California my Texas" pleas are still alive and well, as Californians are blamed for raising the cost of living by outpricing current residents. The housing market has reached record numbers in the median home price year-over-year since the beginning of the pandemic. Austin was even predicted to be the most expensive city outside of California by the end of the year.
Still, Californians and even New Yorkers can't stay away. Companies and celebrities have followed, leading Texas transplant Elon Musk to label Austin's future as "the biggest boomtown that America has seen in half a century."