You've heard it from all over the web, from celebrities and the news—Austin is booming. From 2010-2019, Austin saw the largest percent growth out of all metro areas in the U.S., sharing the list with cities much bigger than The City of the Violet Crown.
Austin's growth has shown no sign of slowing, either. With major companies like Tesla and Google and influencers like devil's advocate podcaster Joe Rogan and Elon Musk, Austin is on the forefront of cities leading the boom.
There are mixed feelings about Austin's explosive growth across the city—between those who find the growth exciting and the famous "don't California my Texas" argument— but those who leave the city are not typically part of the conversation.
Chris Ramser, director of research and economic development for the Austin Chamber, said the flow into the city fluctuates on the long term but even when the U.S. faces its hardest times—COVID-19 and the Great Recession for example—Austin still continues to grow. Ramser is waiting for 2020 data, which will be available in May, to look at the full extent of the migration.
"During the first recession, there was a lot of migration around that time and a lot of people are starting to speculate that the same thing is happening right now with some of the stuff that's been going on with the coronavirus," Ramser said. "What those numbers will ultimately look like, we won't know for a little bit."
Sophia Alaniz, a lifelong Austinite, said she left the only home she had ever known in search of something a little less monotonous, a little more chaotic. The first place that came to mind: the Big Apple.
"I definitely got the chaos—I was just looking for more diversity in my life," Alaniz said. "I like the idea that every day that I leave my apartment, it's something completely, completely, completely different."
Alaniz followed a trend that many have, whether on purpose or inadvertently, in their exodus: a move to a more progressive state. Ramser said the cities people leave Austin for also tend to be emerging tech hubs.
"There is flow. I think those markets are ones that some of our tech workers could be going to (find) opportunities there as they go through their career phases," Ramser said. "They may be looking towards living in a progressive city since they've lived in Austin and they've kind of experienced the Texas side of progressivism."
Austin grows by around 168 people per day, with roughly 128 from net migration and 40 from natural increase. From 2014 to 2018, Austin lost an average of 51 people per day and only 14 states saw possible deficit flows. Of the areas that steal away more Austinites than come here, most only saw small differences. The biggest negative migration rates come from Colorado, Oregon and Connecticut.
Denver, Colorado, has a migration deficit of 589 people, and Portland, Oregon, has a deficit of 407. There are even a few Texas cities that ex-Austinites tend to favor: Killeen and College Station.
Cody Shelton, who lived in Austin until he went to study aerospace engineering at Texas A&M University, liked the small town charm Austin had. After returning to Austin during the summers in-between semesters, Shelton stopped feeling like he fit in after the city's immense growth.
"It's a little concerning, because Austin had this feel that it was a big city because of the Capitol but it felt so small and sort of tight knit," Shelton said. "It was weird going back each time for summer winter break. I felt like I didn't fit anymore because the feeling had changed; it was sort of like a little brother that grew up."
That doesn't mean Shelton thinks the growth is a bad thing—he said the expansion of space companies in Austin reminds him of bigger cities and now, he might even want to move back. Even with its growth, he's not worried about Austin losing its "weird" anytime soon.
"In terms of the overall growth of companies, I actually enjoy that because those are the type of companies, if I was to live in Austin, I would want to be around," Shelton said. "The weird is something you adopt. It doesn't matter where you came from, it's something you get to adopt once you get here."
- Austin reigns as top Tech Town for the second year in a row - austonia ›
- Austin ranks #1 in best U.S. capital to live in - austonia ›
- Austin ranks in best cities for veteran to live in the U.S. - austonia ›
- Local street tells Californians, 'Austin, TX is at capacity' - austonia ›
- Lakeway man finds 44-year-old message in bottle, tracks down writer - 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.