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With its "boomtown" label reaching national news and swaths of tech companies migrating to the Texas capital, Austin's housing market is steamrolling ahead.
Austonia reached out to Austin Board of Realtors President Susan Horton to learn which neighborhoods are the most in-demand for incoming buyers, here is what she said.
Austin's Mueller neighborhood promotes live-work-play principles with its mixed-use lots and extensive greenspaces. (Mueller Austin/Facebook)
Austin's downtown hub is often elusive for homebuyers, but Mueller, built on the city's closed Robert Mueller Municipal Airport, is drawing in droves of residents looking to live near the action.
- Affordability: The only mixed-use neighborhood on the list, Mueller provides diversity in housing from large properties to apartments, and a commitment to affordable housing is part of its mission statement.
- Proximity: Located just north of The University of Texas at Austin and just east of I-35 with Hyde Park as its westerly neighbor, the neighborhood is prime real estate for those who work downtown.
- Walkability: With its own retail, including a large H-E-B, various businesses and schools in the area and plenty of mixed-use spaces, it's easy to get around the neighborhood by foot or public transit.
- Thinking green: The neighborhood has three parks and plenty of green space to give residents a break from the hustle and bustle of city life. Homes at Mueller are constructed with recyclable and non-toxic materials and are designed to save energy and increase affordability. The neighborhood has an onsite power plant through Austin Energy that provides clean energy as well.
- Supply: Due to its location near the heart of Austin, there isn't much new construction happening in the neighborhood. Those looking to make the move to Mueller need to stay posted on available listings if they want to move into the area.
Said: "It is so rich, just right almost in the heart of our city," Horton said. "It's an extremely desirable neighborhood because it's close to everything... so as soon as something comes on the market, it's gone."
2. Whisper Valley
Renewable geothermal energy to heat and cool your home, solar to power it. Zero-energy-capable living starts from the mid $200s-$400s in Whisper Valley.https://t.co/Jrh1nidw8J pic.twitter.com/qm1wxbpRQZ— Whisper Valley (@whisper_valley) January 15, 2021
Whisper Valley, the master planned community tucked in far east Austin that offers a wide range of prices for homes equipped with clean energy resources. The neighborhood claims to be Austin's first zero-energy capable community, with innovations that can both save money and the environment.
- Cleaner, cheaper energy: Whisper Valley's homes claim to be 75-80% more efficient than most homes, according to the Home Energy Rating System, or HERS. They can also serve as their own power plant: with solar and geothermal energy, these homes can generate as much energy as they consume, creating a sustainable cycle.
- Amenities: Perfect for families looking for an idyllic lifestyle and nature as a backyard, the neighborhood comes with a fitness center, a discovery center, trails and community gardens.
- Range of prices: Starting at $200,000, these homes are more affordable than much of Austin amid the skyrocketing housing market.
- Proximity to tech: It may be out of the city center, but Whisper Valley is a 10-minute drive from the new Tesla Gigafactory, Samsung and Dell corporate campuses and the airport. It's also close to Pflugerville, where tech jobs are plentiful.
- Location: Located in East Austin, just outside Manor, Whisper Valley is great for those looking for an out-of-city lifestyle but not as great for commuters or city lovers.
- No "work" in Live, Work, Play: This master planned community will have schools, but with little-to-no employment in the neighborhood, there's no "city-within-a-city" aspect to Whisper Valley.
- Availability: This could be a pro or a con. While the neighborhood is currently sold out, a second phase of lots are going up for sale later this year.
3. Easton Park
Located in Southeast Austin, Horton said Easton Park will eventually be a "city within a city." The master planned neighborhood includes several different homebuilders to fit everyone's tastes, and it'll have commercial lots as well as multifamily units sprinkled into the neighborhood's single-family homes.
- Proximity to airport: It may be far from downtown, but Easton Parks' closeness to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is sure to ease the burden for those who need to travel often.
- City-within-a-city: Once completed, Easton Hills will feel like its own city—think exceptional live-work-play with schools, employment, businesses and community centers.
- Affordability: Homes start at $300,000, lower than the median home price in Austin.
- Variety of choices: Easton Hills will have different neighborhoods within itself with their own unique setups—while one may have a fitness center and pool, another has a shared front area for community living. Seven home builders are available to build houses in their own styles.
- Far from downtown: It's not as far as some other options, but Easton Hills is still much further southeast from the city's center. It isn't too far from Tesla's upcoming Gigafactory, however.
- Patience, patience, patience: Horton says it could take 10 years before the neighborhood is complete, so it may be a while before you get that community feel. Think of it as a long-term investment.
4. Santa Rita Ranch
(Santa Rita Ranch/Facebook)
Located on the opposite side of Austin to the northwest, Santa Rita Ranch is an up-and-coming community in Liberty Hill that will soon be larger than all previously mentioned neighborhoods, Horton said. Marketed as a "staycation," Santa Rita Ranch was rated the No. 1 Selling Master Planned Community by resident real estate industry experts, according to its website.
- Large, self-sufficient community: Santa Rita Ranch will encompass both sides of Ronald Reagan Blvd., according to Horton, and it's already created two new schools and its own fire department. Eventually, this will be an almost entirely self-sufficient neighborhood, and its size will allow residents to embody the live-work-play ideal.
- Events and entertainment: From crawfish boils to water slides, there's always something going on in the neighborhood. Churches, schools and businesses are already in the community as well.
- Affordability: Prices start at $250,000 and go up to $600,000, so the community will have plenty of diverse living choices.
- Plenty of space: Because of its immense size, Santa Rita Ranch has extensive green spaces, including parks and hiking trails. The neighborhood offers a more peaceful, slow-paced lifestyle rich in nature and the outdoors.
- Not-so commuter-friendly: located 40 minutes from downtown, this community may be more beneficial to those working remotely or within Liberty Hill itself. Luckily, there will eventually be plenty of employment within the community.
- No small community feel: Because of its size, Santa Rita Ranch won't be quite as cozy as some other neighborhoods.
Said: "The transformation that's going to happen out there by Santa Rita Ranch is going to be huge," Horton said. "Because the development plans are so massive, it will be its own little city within a city."
5. Up and coming—Kyle and Buda
When looking to the future, Horton said that Austin could resemble a metro like DFW or Houston. With supply going dry, Horton said the city will grow out rather than up. Kyle and Buda, both located a few miles south of Austin, are more their own communities themselves than Austin suburbs, but they're close enough for commuters to take a liking to each city.
- Community: Get away from the busy highways and know your neighbors. The small-town feel is perfect for anyone that wants quieter surroundings. And you can always drive 20 minutes to Austin on the weekend.
- Affordability: While these two towns are known for being more affordable at around $325,000 for a home, prices are rising quickly as they gain in popularity.
- Location: It's definitely a longer commute if you work in Austin, but it's not uncommon to sacrifice commute time for a smaller town feel.
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Editor's note: Addie Broyles is a longtime food writer, who wrote for the Austin American-Statesman for 13 years. This piece was published in her weekly newsletter, "The Feminist Kitchen," where she shares stories about parenthood, grief, ancestry, self healing and creativity. Check it out here.
You know Bruce McCandless' most famous moment, but you probably don't know his name.
McCandless is the astronaut who, in 1984, became the first untethered astronaut in space. He's the guy on those posters, mugs, shirts and everything else NASA could sell with the image of his "leisurely waltz with eternity," as his son calls it in his new book, "Wonders All Around: The Incredible True Story of Astronaut Bruce McCandless II and the First Untethered Flight in Space."
'Wonders All Around' is a new book by Austinite Bruce McCandless III about his dad, the astronaut Bruce McCandless II. (Bruce McCandless III)
I met McCandless III, who lives in Austin with his wife Pati, for a coffee a few months ago, thanks to the introduction from a mutual friend. As we talked about losing our dads, being writers and parents and living in Austin while still dealing with COVID, his dad's famous flight didn't come up, but the process of writing such an epic biography of a complex, only recently passed man was something worth unpacking over coffee.
I hadn't read the book yet, but over the next few weeks, I got to know the McCandless family in such a sweet way that I wanted to write a little about the book here to perhaps inspire you to seek out a copy of "Wonders All Around."
As much as this is a book about space, it's also a book about grief. And persistence. And stoicism. And masculinity and maternality.
The elder McCandless died in 2017, just a few years after losing his wife, Bernice, to cancer.
This passing of the torch from father to son left the younger McCandless inspired to take on this decades-long narrative. McCandless III sets the tone for the book with a memory of the family sitting around the dinner table at their home outside Johnson Space Center near Houston in the mid 1970s, when his dad, who joined NASA in 1966 at the age of 28, wasn't sure he'd ever actually make it to space.
"Our dinners were somber affairs. We ate around a rectangular Formica table in the breakfast nook. Tracy and I sat on benches padded with orange vinyl cushions. Mom and Dad occupied faux-Spanish style chairs with green felt upholstery. Despite the informal, Howard Johnson's-at-the-airport feel of the furnishings, there was a tension in the air that set in right around the time the frozen string beans started steaming. I had the feeling that my sister and I had forgotten to do something important, though I couldn't figure out what it was, or that judgment had been rendered on us and we'd been found guilty of … something — again, it was unclear what. Horseplay was prohibited. The TV and all sources of music or other frivolity were turned off, and singing was strictly forbidden. The only sound came from the aquarium pump. My father had a 100-gallon tank along the wall behind his chair. Sometimes the big plecostomus would attach itself by its mouth to the glass facing us, and I imagined it sucking all the oxygen out of the room."
Imagining what it must have been like to require oxygen to survive, not in outer space but in the living room with your family, sets up the story of the McCandless ancestors, including a guy who was killed by Wild Bill Hickok and the author's grandfather, who was an admiral in the U.S. Navy.
No pressure, Bruce.
It was fascinating to read about the 18 years that Bruce McCandless II worked for NASA before he finally had his first flight, which debuted the Manned Maneuvering Unit, a jet-fueled backpack that he and Ed Whitsett Jr. spent so many years developing. (That's the joystick-controlled machine he's wearing in that mind-bending poster that hung on millions of Americans' walls over the following decade.)
The author McCandless has the unenviable task of trying to put into words what that flight must have felt like. His dad flew 150 feet away from the shuttle Challenger, which would, of course, break into a million little pieces just a few years later.
When President Reagan called the shuttle to congratulate the astronauts that day in 1984, the command center set up a demonstration space walk to give the president a live view of McCandless through the shuttle window.
Bruce McCandless II, trains with Kathy Sullivan, right, in preparation to launch the Hubble Space Telescope. (NASA)
The only problem was, there wasn't much fuel left. McCandless went out anyway, trying to stay within 10-15 feet of the spacecraft. He got into position and turned off the unit to preserve propellant. After the president said a few words and the video switched off, McCandless turned on the unit and "looked for the closest piece of the orbiter, pointed at it, put the hand controller in +X (and) got a sort of sighing noise as it accelerated in that direction." He ran out of fuel just as he grabbed onto a rail on the orbiter. Hand over hand, he brought himself back to the donning station.
It's that kind of suspense that made this book so thrilling to read.
There's space tension like when McCandless is operating as CAPCOM, the only person talking to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin while they are walking on the surface of the moon, and his commander wants him to break protocol and call them back early, even though there are no signs of distress.
The book is also so touching. I cried while reading about the declining health of Bernice, who survived so many astronaut wife struggles over the years and at the end of her life remained a loving partner and mother.
Bruce McCandless was a Navy pilot who was picked to join NASA in 1966. His first space flight wasn't until 1984. (NASA)
It's easy to forget that McCandless II had an entirely other memorable historic moment—launching the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990—and this one seems to have struck an even deeper chord with McCandless III.
The Hubble launch was McCandless' second and final flight. He was 52 and had worked at NASA for 24 years.
McCandless II spends the last chapters of the book making a compelling case that his dad's work to fix and update the Hubble are among the greatest achievements to science. He continued to work on Hubble for another two decades after retiring from NASA through his work at Lockheed Martin.
Bruce McCandless, left, and the flight crew that launched the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990. He was 52 years old. (NASA)
He was the "nuts, bolts, screws, and wires guy," the auto mechanic rather than the scientist, who kept the telescope going 340 miles above Earth for more than twice its life expectancy. The Hubble has been cited in more than 18,000 scientific papers and has revealed countless secrets and unsolved mysteries from around the universe and beyond.
"The size, shape, and sheer spectral weirdness of the images boggle the imagination and make prophets and dreamers of us all," McCandless writes toward the end of "Wonders All Around. "Some of us pay therapists to tell us we're important and unique. Then we check in with Hubble so the satellite can inform us just how galactically marginal we all are. The truth is somewhere in the middle."
What a beautiful reminder.
Austin FC looked to go 2-0 against the Colorado Rapids in their first-rematch since their breakthrough 3-1 victory in April. Instead, the club tallied yet another scoreless match at home as they lost 1-0 to the fourth-place team in the West.
Austin now sits at the bottom of the Western Conference for the second week in a row and have been shutout for 9 of their last 11 matches.
At first glance, Austin looked to have a fighting chance as they took the pitch with their healthiest lineup in weeks. With just four players on the bench and a late-game surprise appearance by left back Nick Lima, who now sports a mohawk, the club had potential to break a 225+ minute scoreless streak and notch their first back-to-back wins against a team.
Instead, the club started fast but finished slow. Austin tallied just two shots on goal to Colorado's 6 as the team continued to struggle to find an offensive identity.
Colorado's Andre Shinyashiki got past even goalkeeper Brad Stuver in the 29th minute of play to give the away team the lead. Austin was unable to bounce back in the match.
There's hope on the horizon, however: Austin's three new signees, including $6.4m striker Sebastian Driussi, are projected to join the team next week.
It's all about the Lone Star State for Austin FC next week as they compete against Texas teams Houston Dynamo at home on Wednesday and FC Dallas on the road on Saturday.
79' Nick Lima is back!
Nick Lima back at RB for the first time in weeks! https://t.co/eln9IFyoMB— Claire (@partain_claire) August 1, 2021
For the first time since a tumultuous June 24 match, right back Nick Lima is back on the pitch- this time with a new look. The defender subbed in for left back Zan Kolmanic sporting a new mohawk haircut in the 79th minute of play.
STUUUUUUUU 🗣 pic.twitter.com/tRRyGxTooK— Austin FC (@AustinFC) August 1, 2021
Brad Stuver gets the crowd yelling his name after blocking Rapids star Michael Barrios' shot with a solo save. Just after, Stuver gets his fingertips on another Barrios ball just in time to get it off track and out of the way. Either save could get Stuver on the MLS highlight reel for today's match.
40' Redes' run for goal is stymied
Redes gets his closest look of the game as he reaches the nearly-unmanned goal, but he takes a tumble just before he strikes. A ref decision says no penalty kick will be allowed, and Redes slowly rises back up with a bit of a limp.
Austin still hasn't managed to tie it up, but Cap. Alex Ring came close in the 36th minute with a header that flew just a bit too high.
29' Colorado strikes first
Austin has been near goal more often than any match in recent weeks, but it's Colorado's Andre Shinyashiki who scores first at Q2 Stadium. Austin's two defensive strongholds Matt Besler and Julio Cascante can't react quickly enough to break his stride as Shinyashiki wins over a 1v1 battle with Brad Stuver. Colorado leads for the first time in the two teams' history.
Perez gets first start for Austin
No new signees on the pitch tonight. Head coach Josh Wolff is mostly sticking to what he knows, with Manny Perez and Rodney Redes being the exception. Redes started last week against Seattle for the first time in weeks after scoring in a friendly vs. Tigres UANL of Liga MX, while Perez will have his first start with Austin tonight.
Will recent signees play tonight?
The club has stirred up new hope by signing Argentine Sebastian Driussi with their most expensive contract yet a month after another striker signing in Moussa Djitte. Austin also welcomed their first true hometown player just a day later as they signed Austinite McKinze Gaines.
Austin FC hopes to answer their scoring woes with the three players as they head into potential rivalry matches against fellow Texas teams Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas, but they might not hold any merit for Saturday's Colorado rematch. Djitte is MIA after receiving a contract in late June, and Driussi is still waiting for the go-ahead to play as he watches the match in Austin. Gaines may not have to travel far to play with the team, but it'll still be at least a few more days before he plays in front of his hometown crowd.
While all three signees aren't on tonight's roster, there's still plenty of buzz that could drum up more excitement on and off the pitch.
La Murga marches to McKalla
Austin FC fan band La Murga de Austin teamed up with supporters' groups Los Verdes and Austin Anthem as hundreds marched to Q2 Stadium two hours before the match. Hundreds of fans filed in, home opener style, to celebrate the upcoming match with brass, bass drums and plenty of fanfare.
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