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Developer Doug Launius said he knew 10 years ago that Southeast Austin was a place to invest: it's close to downtown and the airport; the land is relatively affordable; it is served by three major roadways—SH 71, SH 130 and FM 973; and the rolling hills are beautiful.
"It really is much closer [to Central Austin] than most people think," said Launius, principal of the Southeast Austin-focused development firm Marketplace Real Estate.
Marketplace owns some 900 acres in the area, including the site of a forthcoming 7-million-square-foot mixed-use development called Velocity, which is about a mile away from the site of Tesla's recently announced $1.1 billion Gigafactory.
Launius welcomes its arrival, which a local industry expert said will speed development—and the growth of property value—in the area.
"Tesla opening their factory … is going to accelerate the growth in the area and help us bring the services, the grocery stores, and all the things that we want to do to the area more quickly," he said.
(The above map shows the approximate sites of the Austin Green (north) and Velocity (south) developments. The blue marker is near the entrance to the Tesla site.)
The area southeast of Austin began developing over the last five to seven years for a number of reasons, including rising property costs within the city limits and the construction of SH 130, which improved mobility in the area, said Eldon Rude, principal of the local consulting firm 360 Real Estate Analytics.
"A lot of it has to do with its proximity to Austin, relative to some other suburban areas, and the ability to buy land, develop and build homes that are affordable, if you will, for first-time and first move-up homebuyers," he said.
This growth includes Velocity, which plans to build 2,683 units of multifamily housing, 2.9 million square feet of office space and 42 acres of parks; H-E-B, which bought 16 acres in the development in 2016; and Austin Community College, which owns 124 acres adjacent to the development and plans to build a regional workforce center.
There is also the Austin Green development, from the local development firm GroundWork, which began the process of securing City Council approval for the 2,100-acre project earlier this year. As proposed, it would include 12,000 residential units as well as retail, office, industrial, medical and park space—and now, with Elon Musk's announcement last week, the Tesla factory.
The Tesla effect
Rude expects the factory to further development in the area, as a new workforce—first the construction workers who build the factory and then the employees who work there—drives up demand for housing and other services. Tesla's suppliers may also move to the region, compounding the effect.
This will likely affect the area's affordability, Rude said, and prompt more investment, such as an expansion of DVISD and the arrival of big-box stores.
For Launius, Tesla's arrival is proof of the area's appeal. "We say it's like throwing gas on the fire. The fire was already burning out there pretty strong, and then Tesla comes [and] announces," he said. "I think it's only going to be beneficial for Southeast Austin and Del Valle."
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Matthew McConaughey is reportedly weighing a run for Texas governor in 2022.
The Austin resident and Oscar winner has been "quietly making calls to influential people in Texas political circles, including a deep-pocketed moderate Republican and energy CEO" as he decides whether to run, according to Politico.
McConaughey said a gubernatorial run is "a true consideration" while on a March episode of Houston's "The Balanced Voice" podcast.
Although most political strategists doubt McConaughey's commitment and viability as a candidate, some are still intrigued by the possibility.
"I find it improbable, but it's not out of the question," Karl Rove, a top Republican strategist with a long history in Austin, told the political news site. He added that the big question is whether McConaughey would run as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent.
Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin-based GOP strategist, told Politico he's surprised McConaughey isn't being taken more seriously. "Celebrity in this country counts for a lot," he said. "It's not like some C-list actor no one likes. He has an appeal."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to run for a third term and remains popular among Republican voters, 77% of whom approve of his performance as of April, according to the Texas Politics Project.
Some strategists believe an independent McConaughey run would benefit Abbott. But a recent poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that McConaughey would beat Abbott, 45% to 33%, with 22% opting for someone else.
Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, mulled a McConaughey run in a recent opinion essay from the New York Times. "Texas may not be ready for a philosopher king as a candidate, much less governor," she wrote. "May the best man win, man."
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Some JuiceLand production facility workers and storefront employees are organizing to demand wage increases, better working conditions (including air conditioning in the warehouse) and pay transparency, among other asks. They are also calling on staff to strike and customers to boycott the Austin-based company until their demands are met.
JuiceLand responded on Saturday. "We are listening," the company wrote on their Instagram story. "JuiceLand crew now makes guaranteed $15 an hour or more companywide."
JuiceLand, which was founded in 2001 by Matt Shook and now has 35 locations in Austin, Houston and Dallas, acknowledged the rising cost of living across Texas and the added stress of the pandemic in an email to employees on Saturday, part of which @juicelandworkersrights shared on social media. "There's no denying that times are tough and financial security means more now than ever," the company wrote.
Organized JuiceLand workers rejected this proposal, according to a recent post on the @juicelandworkersrights Instagram account, and reiterated their demands.
"Cost of living in Austin is rising exponentially and will only continue to get worse with the tech boom," the post read. "$15 is barely a sustainable living."