100% Austin news, info, and entertainment, straight to your inbox at 6 a.m. every morning.
In five minutes, you're fully informed and ready to start another great day in our city.
'The Real World' house would no longer stand under proposed Austin Convention Center expansion plans
Austin Convention Center expansion efforts took another step forward, setting up the potential demolition of two downtown blocks and one pop culture landmark.
"The Real World" house, now home to Vince Young Steakhouse, is located within the footprint of the event center's proposed westward expansion. City Council agreed Thursday to initiate land acquisition discussions and bring back property sale proposals by summer 2021.
The MTV show filmed in Austin in 2005 and debuted the same year. By the next year, Colorado-based Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant opened in the former "Real World" house at 3rd and San Jacinto, converting the home's infamous indoor pool into a fountain, which still stands today.
Other than the fountain, only the pool equipment remains today, according to Phillip Brown, owner and chef at Vince Young Steakhouse, which opened in November 2010 after Rio's closed. The location still draws the occasional tour group, he said.
"Every once in a while you'll see a big group of the segways out on the street corner talking about 'The Real World' house," Brown said. "So maybe that's brought us some business, too."
Vince Young Steakhouse is among several restaurants and businesses that would be impacted by the 750,000 square foot, $1.2 billion expansion proposal, which council members approved in May 2019 and was upheld by voters later that year. Other local concepts in the area include Café Blue and YORU Sushi, which opened earlier this year.
Despite recently renewing the restaurant's lease for the next 5 years, Brown said he and other nearby tenants fear the potential cost and burden of having to relocate sooner than anticipated.
"Are we here as long as we want to be here, or are we here another 2-3 years?" Brown said. "There's a lot of uncertainty right now for us."
Brown is hoping the city works with landowners to ensure displacement costs are covered for Vince Young Steakhouse and other impacted businesses. Eminent domain would obligate the city to provide such assistance, he said, although that idea has not been proposed publicly.
Exact details of the land purchase will be worked out as part of the negotiation process approved Thursday. City Council increased the hotel occupancy tax last year from 7% to 9% to help finance the expansion.
This rendering shows proposed plans for the Austin Convention Center westward expansion efforts.City of Austin
"This action is the first of a two-step approval process. … The second step of this process is anticipated for the summer of 2021, with a real estate purchase and sale agreement with accompanying documents," a city spokesperson said in a statement.
The longtime warehouse converted into "The Real World" house is now valued at $16 million, according to the latest Travis Central Appraisal District records. When it was converted into a reality show setting in the mid-2000s, MTV reportedly enlisted Austin-based designer Joel Mozersky, who has gone on to gain notable clients, such as Uchi, Lonesome Dove and Native Hostel, among others.
"The Real World" house regains pop culture notoriety every few years. In 2005, the house was named "Best Bed & Brothel" as part of an Austin Chronicle critics category created for that year alone. Well-known cast member Wes Bergmann revisited the site 10 years later, and most of the cast reunited in 2018 when Bergmann got married.
Facebook Watch is now streaming the full season of "The Real World" Austin for those who wish to relive the nostalgia.
- Austin City Council to move ahead on convention center expansion ... ›
- Austin prepares Convention Center as a COVID field hospital ... ›
Summertime sure does fly by, doesn't it? It's time to jam-pack as many summer activities as you can while there is still about a month left before school starts up again and the grind gets going. Luckily, Austin is full of places to visit that will fill your season full of memories.
To get you started, check out some of these seasonably-fit museums, galleries and snacks.
Beyond Van Gogh, 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd.
Like the name suggests, Beyond Van Gogh Austin takes visitors deeper into the Dutch painter's work by surrounding them in his post-impressionist world. Aptly taking place at the Starry Night Pavilion at the Circuit of the Americas, this immersive exhibit allows Vincent Van Gogh's masterpieces to be "freed from frames" as they are projected onto the walls and floors for guests to explore. Van Gogh's thoughts, dreams and words are set to a symphonic score to drive the narrative as you walk through the rooms, giving visitors insight into the tortured artist's swirly world. Adult tickets start at $46.99, children at $28.99 and it offers student and military discounts while the museum runs through Sept. 5.
Museum of Ice Cream, 11506 Century Oaks Terrace
The runaway hit from New York City has made its way to Austin, complete with a rainbow sprinkle pool, banana forest and bright-pink-everything exterior. The Museum of Ice Cream is a favorite of major celebrities—Beyoncé, Ryan Reynolds and the Kardashian Krew have all been spotted at the New York Location. The whimsical museum promises an undisclosed "Texas twist" at its new Austin location, which also has an on-brand café that serves Museum of Ice Cream original treats. You didn't think you'd leave without ice cream, did you? Tickets run $39 per person.
The Selfie Galleries, 3220 Amy Donovan Plaza
Looking for a place to get that perfect summer selfie? Look no further, because the newly-opened Selfie Galleries has 20 wildly decorated different rooms to roam through, capturing an unforgettable photo of yourself and your faves in each one. The backdrops were made so you can flex your creative muscle and make some documented memories at the same time. The gallery also hosts mixers for all age groups so you can meet local Austinites in a safe setting. Tickets start at $20 for an hour, $40 for two, depending on how many people you bring along.
Wonderspaces, 1205 Sheldon Cove
The self-proclaimed "new home for extraordinary art," Wonderspaces is an interactive art gallery like you've never experienced before. With rotating exhibits that you can touch, Instagram and ogle, the artwork is designed for everyone to create their own unique experience when visiting. Virtual reality, a house of mirrors, anonymous conversations and a dragon made of teabags are just a few of the wild installations that make this museum what it is—plus, you can enjoy some local brews at the Wonderspaces Bar. Adults can visit for $24, kids for $15 or you can get an annual pass for $99 and visit each new piece.
Milk Bar Bakery, delivery only
Maybe you want an experience without the outing. Thanks to ghost kitchens, the brainchild of Christina Tosi came all the way from The Big Apple to the Lone Star State. The well-celebrated Milk Bar Bakery is now available in Austin through third-party delivery only, meaning you can get the full line of milk bar cookies, bar pie, truffle crumb cakes and its famous layered birthday cakes through UberEats, GrubHub, DoorDash and Postmates only. If you haven't had these rich cookies yet, it's time to fire up that delivery app and get to ordering!
Soak up the rest of summer while you can!
- 1 1/12 oz sweet pepper-infused Tito's Handmade Vodka
- 3 oz soda water
- 1 oz grapefruit juice
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- 1/4 oz simple syrup
The Biden administration is asking cities and states to use pandemic relief funds to pay residents $100 to get vaccinated. Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reaffirmed prohibitions on pandemic protocols in a new executive order issued on Thursday.
The order emphasizes that "the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates," according to a press release. It outlaws government entities from requiring employees to be vaccinated or individuals to provide proof of vaccination and upholds previous orders restricting government entities' ability to impose pandemic protocols.
Local public health and elected officials have asked all Austinites to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, and unvaccinated individuals to avoid nonessential trips last week given the rising number of local confirmed cases and related hospitalizations in recent weeks. But it is not enforceable under Abbott's order.
The seven-day moving average of new hospital admissions in the five-county Austin metro has more than quintupled since the beginning of July and is now 47.4. The threshold for Stage 5 is 50, according to Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines.
Despite these trends, Abbott stands firm in his commitment to avoid new statewide mandates and to prohibit local government entities from issuing any of their own.
"Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19," he said in a statement. "They have the individual right and responsibility to decide for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses and engage in leisure activities."
Public health officials have attributed the current spike to the more contagious Delta variant and unmitigated spread among unvaccinated individuals. Abbott encouraged Texans to get vaccinated if they haven't already but affirmed that it would never be required by the state in his statement.
An increasing number of Austin-area employers—including Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health, Facebook and the Department of Veterans Affairs—have announced new vaccine requirements in recent days. Austin Mayor Steve Adler asked the city manager to enact a similar requirement on Wednesday, but the city is unable to do so due to an executive order issued by Abbott in April.
- Delta variant, unvaccinated fuel rise of Austin COVID cases - austonia ›
- Gov. Greg Abbott said he won't reinstate mask mandates - austonia ›
- Texas Dems to Abbott: Allow masks, virtual learning at school ... ›