Make $145,000 or more in Austin?
Your bank statement may pale in comparison to fellow Austinites Elon Musk or billionaire Robert F. Smith, but anyone with that or more on their yearly salary checks can now classify themselves as wealthy alongside the elite, according to a recent study by finance media site Banking Rates.
The study classified those in the top 20% of income as rich across 50 cities in the U.S. Austin, which saw the highest rates of any Texas city, found that it takes at least a $145,000 yearly statement to fit into that category.
But an average person in that high brow category shoots even higher: the average income among those 20 percenters was $267,777. The study, which used data from the U.S. Census and American Community Survey, also found the average income of the top 5% to be over $485,000.
Austin's average incomes came in eighth highest on the list and higher than Texas cities including Fort Worth (22), Arlington (23), Houston (25), Dallas (28) and El Paso (45). Starting incomes in the top 20% ranged from $116,807 in Arlington to $94,422 in El Paso.
Labeled a "little California" by the aforementioned Musk and thousands of Californians moving to Austin to avoid their home state's higher cost of living, it's no surprise that Austin sat just below West Coast cities San Francisco (1), San Jose (2), Seattle (4), Oakland (5) and San Diego (7). San Francisco's top 20% starts at nearly $240,000, the highest on the list, while Washington, D.C. (3) and Boston (6) rounded out the list's top eight.
And while average income falls well below the $145,000 mark and significantly lower than West Coast hubs, Austin's median household income increased by 30% from 2014 to 2019, where it reached just over $71,500. But the high-demand local economy is starting to sag under the weight of new move-ins—including big-name tech companies and startups—and Austin's former low cost of living is predicted to be the highest in a country outside of California by the end of the year.
Despite high incomes when compared to other Texas counterparts, Austin is encountering an affordability crisis, with studies showing that the city is among the most unfriendly in the U.S. for minimum wage workers—even if the bar was raised to $15 an hour.
But the formerly flaming hot housing market is beginning to slow, and as a 2020 CNBC budgeting article shows, those making $145k aren't likely to have many budgeting issues anytime soon. And for homeowners, many former West Coasters, techies and anyone who made the "rich" list, the city is still among the best relocation markets in the world as it continues to solidify its "boomtown" status.
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Austin may not be a snowy winter wonderland this December, but that doesn't mean you can't be transported to a land of faux snow, Christmas trees and holiday cheer.
Here are six places that are hosting winter wonderlands in Austin.
Winter Wanderland at Austin Motel, 1220 South Congress Ave.
Get ready for a holiday experience you’ll never forget! From Dec. 2-26, the Austin Motel is hosting a neon rainbow holiday experience, which includes trees, rainbow lights, carols with Drag Mrs. Clause, Hunky Santa, weekly holiday film screenings and boozy holiday drinks galore. Thursdays through Saturdays offer some of these special holiday treats, so come ready to have a jolly time. This is a family-friendly event, reservations aren’t required and admission is free, but they do ask you to donate to CARY, Council on At-Risk Youth. The full schedule can be found here.
Yelp Pink Winter Wonderland at Revival Coffee, 1405 East 7th St.
This year, Yelp is hosting their Deck the Halls with Yelp, a $100K Holiday Winterization Fund which helps local businesses fund improvement projects needed for the winter season. To celebrate this launch, they have partnered with Enchantment Event Decor to create a pink winter wonderland at Revival Coffee. This winter wonderland will also serve as a way community members can nominate local businesses in person to receive funding, learn about the campaign and celebrate the holiday season. Expect unique lights, tinsel, pink trees and an overall Instagram moment.
Illuminate at W Austin, 200 Lavaca St.
This year, the famous secret holiday bar at W Hotel will become a sophisticated winter wonderland! Guests will truly have the chance to shine during this holiday season and enjoy appetizers and tasty Fire or Ice cocktails off their brand new holiday menu.
South Pole at Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt, 605 Davis St.
This year, the Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt is hosting a marvelous winter wonderland with its third annual fourth-floor South Pole. They have revamped the rooftop desk to showcase outdoor igloos for private dining, holiday-themed cocktails (and also Friendsgiving-themed cocktails), and holiday-themed meals from Geraldine’s. Reservations for the private igloos will open on Dec. 3 and will also be open for a week around Valentine’s Day. They can be made here. Guests also have the choice to purchase hotel and dining packages, which can be made through Hotel Van Zandt or Geraldine’s.
Austin Trail of Lights at Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Rd.
Get ready for the 57th annual Austin Trail of Lights running now through the end of the month. Tickets range from $15 to $65 and can be purchased online. The event is hosted by the Trail of Lights Foundation, and this year, it’s a drive-thru event. Enjoy over two million lights that light up the park, 90 holiday trees, and over 70 holiday displays and lighted tunnels. They also offer private nights in which entry is free through the STARS at the Trail program. More information about the Austin Trail of Lights can be found here.
Peppermint Parkway at COTA, 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd.
From now until Dec. 26, the Circuit of The Americas is hosting Peppermint Parkway, a winter wonderland where guests can enjoy a mile of immersive holiday displays, dancing elves, a plaza of food and activities and seven million holiday lights. There are four ticket packages that range from $40 to $95 and can include, along with regular admission, a fast pass and/or a chance to take a lap around the famous track. Regular admission includes a show, mailing letters to Santa, a mistletoe kissing booth, a holiday express train, amusement rides, treats, carols, a zipline and more!
Have fun walkin’ in a winter wonderland!
After a virtual year in 2020, Austin Fashion Week is coming back with in-person shows at The Domain on Friday afternoon.
The weekend will kick off with the first show at 1:30 p.m. on Friday and end with the final show at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, celebrating Austin’s up-and-coming high fashion scene with six runway shows, more than 50 designers, pop-up shops and coinciding Domain store sales.
After a lifelong dream of becoming a fashion designer, this will be Brandy Hughes and Brandy Design Studio’s first time showing at AFW. Hughes returns to Austin as a designer’s apprentice after studying design at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. Austin is where she got her start in the bridal sphere.
“Austin's such a weird kind of place—It's very creative and there's a lot of artistic people here,” Hughes said. “I think that it's going to get bigger and the one thing that's really good about doing fashion in Austin is you have a little bit more freedom to do the things that you want to do and be as crazy as you want.”
Hughes is showing her most recent collection on Friday’s 1:30 p.m. show, which officially came out two months ago, and features simple silhouettes for the wedding march.
Meanwhile, hailing from Dallas, Phillip White of Phit Clothing is set to appear for the third time at AFW. Inspired to begin an exercise journey but disappointed by the lack of variety in plus-size men’s activewear, White took matters into his own hands.
“Every brand that I was seeing out there, the fit was not correct and a lot of it was just very basic black and gray,” White said. “I saw everybody was sort of making the same thing. I kind of came up with my own brand of how I wanted activewear to be and it's very colorful and still flattering.”
His featured collection is based around his love of the Spice Girls growing up, which inspired him to create women’s and unisex clothes on top of men’s fashion for the first time in his career.
“I want it to look good on all body types,” White said. “My vision of the Spice Girls kind of represents everybody. For me, this collection was the perfect bridge for me to introduce women's, men's and unisex—there are a lot of pieces that I think are gender fluid and anybody could wear them.”
Designers attending come from all over—not just Austin—including Canada, the Philippines and Egypt. Don’t go alone, take this guide with you to get the most out of your ticket. Tickets for individual runways start at $50 and $135 for the whole weekend.
Here's a breakdown of fashion week.
1:30 p.m. Show
- Anmarie Design
- Brandy Design Studio
- Cognition Apparel
- Loka Haus
- The National Bureau of Product Research
- Phit Clothing
- The Salt Nomad
3:30 p.m. Show
- Korto Momolu
- AL+LU Apparel
- Iris Gil Designs
- Jhay Lawson
- Kneaded Fashion
- Toshimi Pacumbala
- Unlikely Designs
First up in the morning bracket is Anmarie Design, showing a collection that is two years in the making, and Sewreffic will take the stage last with a ready-to-wear collection.
- AJ Designs
- Nine & Beyond
- Onyx d'Or
- SA Studio
- Shahira Lasheen
- Turtle Cay Island Wear
- Yoli & Co.
- Daniel Esquivel
- Any Old Iron
- Art Institute of Austin
- Camille Cannell
- Christina Ward
- Heirlume Couture
- Joseph Ledesma
- Kweens Royal Tees
- Brittany Allen
- Caycee Black
- Bosses in Style
- Chellie Friday
- Hello Kaiya
- Jen Ley Designs
- Vee Rodriguez
- Mysterious by NPN
- Art IV Play
- Diana Boch
- FiFi x Fashion House
Make it work!
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Downtown may be recovering from the pandemic but the priorities residents want in their city center are changing, according to the City Pulse Survey done by design firm Gensler.
After studying 7,500 people in 15 global markets, including Austin, Gensler found that life in COVID has pushed city-dwellers to want more outdoor activities, social spaces and entertainment venues in bustling business districts.
Post-pandemic, the highest-rated downtown activities were shopping, visiting parks and just “hanging out.” The need for more public spaces like parks jumped from sixth on the list to second this year.
Although globally people view downtown as a business district for task-based activities, across the U.S., downtown districts are viewed more as a vehicle for entertainment. This is especially true for Austinites, where people surveyed said they would rather see more entertainment and cultural venues than shopping or public transit downtown.
For Melanie Gartman, a manager at construction software company Levelset who has been living in Austin for most of her life, the needs and wants of the average resident closely align with her own.
Austin clocked in second-most desirable downtown, tied with Charlotte, North Carolina. Like the 78% of Austinites in the survey, Gartman said she thinks Downtown Austin is hanging on to its lovable charm.
“Even now with fewer people out and about it's still very vibrant and lively. I feel like I saw life come back to downtown a lot sooner than I expected it to,” Gartman said. “It's still holding on a bit that Austin vibe and with the high rises coming in, it's scary that we could lose that. I think it's holding on better than I would have expected, especially within the last two years of everything that happened.”
As Austinites eased back into downtown, the first stop Gartman made was to go see music again. Since venues opened back up, Gartman and her loved ones have seen live music at their favorite venues: Moody Amphitheatre, Mohawk, The Parish and Empire Control Room.
Blackillac opened for Gary Clark Jr. at the Moody Amphitheater's first show back in August. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
Entertainment is most important for Gartman’s life in Austin—seeing Gary Clark Jr. in August brought normalcy back into her routine—and said our local downtown is the ideal out of other cities in Texas.
“I've always noticed that between Houston’s downtown and Austin’s, Houston's is so Monday to Friday, eight to five, maybe a post-work happy hour,” Gartman said. “Growing up, downtown (Austin) was always the place to go. It has always been the hub and I think Austin is unique in that way.”
Traffic in downtown areas is way down overall, even though concern over pandemic safety has taken a backseat. Shopping traffic has decreased by 28%, dining out and entertainment attendance dropped by 33% in the post-pandemic sphere.
Even though her office is located downtown, Gartman usually works from home. Her downtown visits tend to be for the purpose of entertainment and she said the lack of parking sometimes becomes problematic.
“I feel like all these high rises are taking over all the parking,” Gartman said. “It used to be for go-to parking, I would just park under I-35. No big deal. But now, that’s kind of scary, especially if you're by yourself. The party parking is a barrier to actually making it down there.”
But with the rise of the hybrid work model, it’s likely that the downtown sphere is going to change all across the U.S. For now, survey participants said they would like to see their downtown reduce traffic, add more green space, improve the cityscape and increase parking capacity as we shape the future of cities.