The People's Guide is a series that shows us around Austin neighborhoods, led by our most loyal readers, favorite bloggers, and other luminaries of our choosing. Have a piece to say? We'll be happy to hand over the megaphone. For our inaugural installment, we welcome Central East Austin resident Lauren Modery, who enjoys walking around her neighborhood and getting to know her community better.
Modery is a bit of a Renaissance woman—she first came to our attention when her film, Loves Her Gun, premiered at SXSW 2013 and won the Louis Black Lone Star Award—but we know her best for her blog, Hipstercrite.com, which was voted best local blog in the Austin Chronicle's 2015 Best of Austin poll and offers her frank, refreshing, frequently funny essays on many matters—quite a few of them close to home. Modery said her love for Austin has yet to wear off, though "the new condos and small-plate restaurants test it."
How long have you lived in Central East Austin?
I’ve lived in East Austin for six years. I’ve lived with my partner, who built his Central East Austin home on an empty lot in 2007, for the past four years.
What has changed since you moved there?
In the relatively short time I’ve lived in East Austin, I’ve seen, with mixed emotions, new bars and restaurants multiply like friggin’ rabbits. I’ve seen many cheap new builds sprout up. I’ve seen out-in-the-open crime drop. I’ve seen neighbors pushed out because they can no longer afford to live in the neighborhood.
What is the housing stock like?
In my neighborhood, you see a mixture of single-family homes built in the 1930s to 1970s, a few surviving houses built at the turn of the 20th century, a smattering of modern homes—and you see many cheap new builds. These multifamily new builds concern me and many of my neighbors. Several neighbors have been active in raising red flags about these builds. They’re driving the market up, they don’t cater to the local community, and they’re not quality housing.
Is it better for renters or buyers?
Neither? East Austin, like a lot of Austin, has gotten very expensive. Property taxes are through the roof, and these cheap new builds go on the market for around $400,000-$500,000. If we were trying to move to East Austin now, we wouldn’t be able to afford it. I know Austin’s population boom and increase in real estate value is not uncommon in many comparable cities right now, but it still concerns me that Austin will become a rich person’s town.
What do you like most and least about the neighborhood?
I love that I live in a diverse community. I love that the neighbors take the time to get to know one another. I love that I can go on my daily walk and encounter many friendly faces, young and old, and all with interesting stories to tell.
What is a beloved neighborhood joint you frequent or like?
One of my favorite East Austin joints is Hoover’s Cooking on Manor Road. We go about once a week. Not only do they have delicious comfort and Southern fare, often sourced with local ingredients, they have a super-friendly staff that makes you feel like you’re at home. You know you’re at a good establishment when the staff has been working there for years. If you’ve never tried their beet margarita, you should do it!
Where are the best places to chill and/or experience the outdoors in Central East?
Tell us about some hidden gems in Central East.
Chu-Mikal’s Café on East Seventh Street. This sweet little spot offers quality diner food and Mexican food at a nice price. They have wonky hours, so we don’t always get to go, but the staff is super friendl,y and it’s a nice hideaway from the buzzy spots.
Tell us something we don’t know about Central East Austin.
People think East Austin is just full of hipsters, but if you take the time to scratch below the surface, you’ll see that it is a vibrant community full of deep history, culture, and community. I hope that never changes.
Who wouldn’t be happy there?
People who don’t enjoy interacting with their neighbors or who don’t like a mixture of houses and small businesses. If you prefer a suburban atmosphere with big lawns, Central East Austin is not your place. It’s a close-knit community with a lot of character.
The final word on Central East Austin is:
East Austin is rich in history and culture and I hope that new residents continue to honor and respect the neighborhood they just moved to. I encourage new residents to attend community meetings and meet-ups and to walk around and get to know their wonderful community.