It’s hard not to love all that’s great about
downtown Austin – so it doesn’t come as
much of a surprise that there’s been a lot
more activity when it comes to downtown
real estate. After all, downtowns all over the
country are the place to be, and it’s easy to
understand why. They are often the epicenters of culture and creativity, of hipness
and newness, and vibrant with possibilities
for the future of a city. Austin is no exception.
The city’s downtown offers a vibrant
lifestyle and is an exciting alternative to
single-family homes in more traditional,
suburban neighborhoods. This kind of
“Austin-style” urban living means residents
have easy access to all the city has to offer:
a thriving entertainment district; the best in
music, arts and film; fabulous restaurants;
great bars; and a plethora of outdoor activities around Lady Bird Lake.
From low-rise condos dotting the shores of
the lake to high-rise loft living, there’s no
doubt that the perks to living downtown
can’t be beat.
But it wasn’t always this way. Years ago,
businesses were all that occupied the downtown area, with the exception of four or
five condo high-rises and a few apartment
buildings – and those who lived downtown
had to drive or take a bus to get to services
like grocery stores and specialty shops. The
closest entertainment was on Sixth Street,
which was lined with bars and restaurants
and had very few shops.
Now, the rise of new residential units has
had a definite influence on the kinds of
businesses that have sprung up downtown
to support those who embrace the urban
living scene. With all the recent development, the infrastructure of downtown has
Consider that, without Whole Foods, the
closest major grocery store would be at
least two miles away. The eclectic mix of
other businesses, many of which are locally
owned, are also huge benefits because they
contribute to downtown’s status as a walkable city that’s easy to get around.
WHO’S MOVING TO
Like many downtowns across the country,
there was a large concentration of single,
young professionals, and investors snapping up downtown Austin lofts and condos.
The market may have catered to singles
and empty-nesters several years ago, but
now there’s a much broader spectrum of
who lives downtown. While singles and
professionals still dominate, more families with children are making the move.
And, with plenty of good public, private
and charter schools within easy access
of downtown – plus parks and a location that’s minutes away from tons of
kid-friendly activities – it’s getting easier
for families to make the transition.
Another factor that’s drawing more and
more people to downtown Austin are the
increased services. Whole Foods Market’s
flagship store and corporate headquarters at
Sixth and Lamar, plus tiny neighborhood
grocery stores like Royal Blue Grocery
in the Second Street District are welcome
additions for downtown residents in need
of a bottle of bubbly or a loaf of bread.
The newest downtown Austin development projects, such as the Second Street
District, additions to the Warehouse
District, and new shops and restaurants
on Fifth Street, have made it a lot easier
for people to make the decision to live in
the heart of the city. There are also plans
to bring in still more retail downtown, as
residents are demanding more services
For example, the Second Street District
has done very well with the boutique
stores, sidewalk cafes, and coffee shops
that have popped up along the street in
the last year or two. The Second Street
District is also home to restaurants, retail
stores, home furnishings stores, sandwich
shops, and more. KLRU Studios (home
of the long-running “Austin City Limits”
television show) and its new performing
arts venue – ACL Live at the Moody Theater
– opened adjacent to the new W Hotel. The
Mexican-American Cultural Center is closeby,
adding to Austin’s cultural base and downtown appeal.
WHERE TO LIVE?
There has always been some residential
development in downtown Austin – like
the historic Brazos Lofts, the Railyard Condominiums, and Gables West Avenue, all of which
opened in 1999 – but it wasn’t until 2002
when the residential market really exploded.
In that year, the Plaza Lofts at Republic
Square and West 5th, the Brown Building
lofts on West 8th, and the luxury Nokonah
residences on West 9th all opened within
months of each other. Since then, countless
residential projects have opened or have
been renovated, including the Austin City
Lofts; Avenue Lofts; Austonian; 404 Rio Grande;
AMLI Downtown; The 5 Fifty Five (atop the
downtown Hilton hotel); The Monarch; The
Milago; The Shore; Posada del Rey; The Sabine
on 5th; La Vista on Lavaca; The W Condominiums; and others.
While there are some affordable housing
options in downtown Austin, it’s not often
There’s no doubt that the idea of
working and playing within easy
walking distance of home is extremely
appealing to many.