Tesla's new Gigafactory in Austin has done more than tack on national headlines: it's also reshaping Riverside and the rest of southeast Austin.
Michele Bryant, manager of Treehouse Apartments on Oltorf Street, said that "low availability (and) heavy demand" is ending previous specials and sales at the complex as Tesla employees take root in the area.
"We leased 13 units to Tesla employees in the last two months and many more are inquiring daily," Bryant said.
Tesla's Giga Texas is located 15 miles from Riverside's hub and sits near another southeast Austin feature, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Though the Gigafactory won't be complete until the end of the year, the company is hiring droves of new workers. In April, Tesla CEO and Austin resident Elon Musk tweeted, "Over 10,000 people are needed for Giga Texas just through 2022!"
Another busy dat at Giga Texas - it almost looks like the Millennium Falcon now @elonmusk 🛸
📷 @peterdog15 (1 of 4 pics) pic.twitter.com/K5CYWIzK8o
— Tesla Owners of Austin (@AustinTeslaClub) May 13, 2021
Austin Board of Realtors President Susan Horton said that the influx of tech companies has affected where people choose to move within the Austin metro. "We are projected to have 35,000 new jobs here by the end of the year because of just the tech industry," Bryant said. "Tech is booming, and they want to be as close to those areas as they can."
The effects of the ongoing tech and California migration have already been felt throughout Austin, but areas with close proximity to the companies' headquarters, including Pflugerville and Riverside, are seeing the biggest changes to their communities.
when i moved to austin just 10 years ago the east side was where my community was, where i went to feel like i was home, even with the riverside college kids. but even then it was much smaller. now since the tech boom's gentrification east side is nearly lost -- https://t.co/ppbX0MQ8WX
— Kate Sánchez⁷ (@OhMyMithrandir) June 6, 2020
Road construction plagues much of Oltorf, the street parallel to the south of Riverside, and new apartments are constantly being reconstructed or remodeled to match increasing demand.
East Riverside-Oltorf has been known for slightly higher crime rates, but it's also an affordable oasis amid the sky-high Austin housing market. Young people starting their careers flock to the area, which has an average 1-bedroom rent at $150 cheaper than the rest of Austin and half the price of rent downtown, according to Zumper.
But a change in landscape means a change in price. At Treehouse, there's more interest than there is room, and Bryant said the complex ended a special because they simply don't need it to bring people in.
On Riverside and nearby Oltorf Street, new high rises catered to young people stand half-built, and existing properties are constantly undergoing remodels.
Bryant, who has worked at Treehouse Apartments for two years, has already noticed changes to the neighborhood.
"I have noticed more mid-rise properties being built," Bryant said. She added it is "most likely due to tech and Tesla housing needs."
The neighborhood that is dotted with taco trucks and Austin treasures, such as Emo's Austin and Buzz Mill, is now slated for a revamp that mirrors The Domain in North Austin.
The project, nicknamed "The Domain on Riverside," is a 10 million-square-foot project approved by Austin City Council in October of 2019. The behemoth, labeled River Park, would double the size of its North Austin counterpart. The project could take over two decades to build, with its first phase set to be complete in 2023.
Rendering of River Park.
While some, including the project's developers, say the development will help add affordable housing and bring business into the area, others such as Save Our Hoodz, a local organization bringing attention to displacement, say the project contributes to gentrification.
The development is part of a bigger-scale operation adopted by the city in 2010. The East Riverside Corridor Master plan intends to bring more green space and walkability to the area, but it's also led to increased interest from cash-happy investors.
With Oracle bordering Riverside to the north and Tesla to the east, a change in landscape has already begun, and a transformation of the area seems almost guaranteed.
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East Austin restaurant la Barbecue has been robbed a third time in less than three months, according to a post on the restaurant's Instagram.
In the post, the restaurant included photos of what appeared to be a man exiting a minivan from surveillance footage.
"This guy pulled up in a car full of stuff… he ripped our gate open and stole a couple empty kegs," the post said. "The ring system scared him off so he did not venture back into the area. PLEASE EVERYONE ON THE EAST SIDE BE CAREFUL!!! This guy goes back into his car to grab something before he goes in. I am hoping he won’t be back!!"
The robbery comes as many restaurant and food truck owners have been on guard from recent break-ins. East Austin cheesesteak truck R&B's Steak and Fries has also been robbed three times in around three months, according to owner Kris Elliott. Elliot said the truck was last robbed around a month and a half ago.
"When the weather gets cold, it seems like these things start to happen more often," Elliott said. "We're just happy no one got hurt."
Additionally, he said all 5 of the food trucks in their lot have experienced burglaries. The landlord of the space is taking action by investing in alarm and camera systems. "Been very tough dealing with this problem as us small business owners are just trying to survive during the pandemic," Elliott said.
And it's not just in East Austin. North Austin restaurants Eldorado Cafe and Chez Zee Bistro were both broken into and robbed on the weekend of Jan. 8, while over a dozen food truck robberies and break-ins were reported in the latter half of 2021.
Some, like Chez Zee's Deborah Velasco, wonder if the understaffed Austin Police Department's decision to no longer respond to non-emergency calls is part of the problem. Xose Velasco, owner of East Austin's Discada, said owners are keeping their guard up in the wake of the robberies as he was robbed twice within a month of reopening in November 2021.
"We try to keep the lights on," Velasco said. "We're a little bit more careful."
After 12 months, the long-anticipated massive Tesla factory in Southeast Travis County is up and operating and everyone wants a look inside.
Phase 1 of Giga Texas appears to be tied up as production of the Model Y Tesla is underway, the electric car company revealed on Wednesday in its fourth-quarter earnings call. The factory, located on the former Harold Green-turned Tesla Road, sits on more than 2,000 acres of land in southeast Travis County.
Here's a glimpse inside the factory.
Model Ys will be the first Teslas to come out of Giga Texas with an estimated delivery of August. The wait estimate comes after Tesla noted supply chain issues have affected their factories, which have been running below capacity for several quarters. A deep blue metallic like this goes for $1,000 more than a white or silver Model Y, totaling $61,990.
Model Ys began being produced at Giga Texas at the end of 2020. In general assembly at the factory, the Teslas get their major interior components to finish the vehicle.
Workers at Austin's Gigafactory are attaching seats to a structural battery pack. It's been described by some as the biggest difference between Texas-made Model Y's and the current version at the Fremont, California factory. It shouldn't have a major impact on the owner's experience, but Tesla has updated instructions for the jacking procedure, as the lift points are different.
With a sleek, open office setup, workers can take in a view of the factory from their seats. It's a component CEO Elon Musk wanted for what is now the headquarters of Tesla.
On the Austin, Texas public location Snapchat, a photo of inside Giga Texas has appeared. On the left you can see a sneak peek of a Model Y body.pic.twitter.com/N7zliZ5vkL— Sawyer Merritt (@Sawyer Merritt) 1643081462
With Snapchat's maps, anyone can look at everyday activity happening at the factory. To view these geographically-linked stories, click the bottom left "map" icon and search "Tesla Giga Texas." Once you've found it, you can view the Snapchat story of those in and around the facility. While most stories stay up for only 24 hours, Giga Texas is a designated place on Snapchat, allowing users to view a collection of photos and videos from the inside.
Following Model Ys, Texas-made Teslas will include the Cybertruck, Semi and Model 3. But it might be a while before those other models arrive. EV makers have been hit hard by the chip shortage, and it's thought that changing features are contributing to Cybertruck delays as Tesla works to compete in the electric pickup market.
Joe Rogan paid a visit to buddy Elon Musk this week. The two have been seen around town since both moving to Texas. Naturally, Rogan was impressed with the prototype.
If you're dying to get a closer look at this factory, you just might get to. In December, Musk said the factory would have tours available to the community early this year.
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