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Curbed Cup 1st round: (2) Downtown vs. (7) MLK-183

Which neighborhood should advance? Cast your vote now!

Aerial/overhead view with tall and medium-sized buildings
Downtown Austin
Shutterstock

The Curbed Cup, our annual award for the neighborhood of the year, is kicking off with 8 neighborhoods vying for the prestigious (fake) trophy. We’ll reveal each of the neighborhoods this week, and polls will be open for 24 hours so you can cast your vote as to which ones should advance. Let the eliminations commence!


Downtown

"Everybody in Austin knows something about downtown, whether it's Saturday nights on Sixth Street, a visit to the Capitol, or a jog around Butler Trail," reads one of the nominations we got for the neighborhood last year (it came in secon), "but downtown is so big and so dynamic that few people know the whole scene." It’s true: Downtown is booming on a bigger scale than most places in the central city. That means lots and lots of tall buildings, but they’re not just the office towers of yore: many, if not most, are residences and multiuse complexes, such as the redeveloped Seaholm Power Plant, or civic buildings that welcome the public with active enthusiasm, such as the brand-new Central LIbrary. Downtown development also includes the complete reinvention of Waller Creek and the revival of Shoal Creek, as well as rehabbing smaller green spaces such as Republic Square Park and creating new ones, such as the pocket patios on Congress Avenue. As if that weren’t enough, the city just launched an app called Wander that allows you to choose your own adventure while exploring the area IRL. It all adds up to a more walkable, vibrant, and accessible place for public life, as well as for its inhabitants.

two volunteers pulling weeds at a city park
Springdale Park in MLK-183 neighborhood
Friends of Springdale Park/Facebook

MLK-183

More Austinites probably know the MLK-183 neighborhood than know its official name. Running along the east side Springdale Road from Airport to East MLK boulevards (with a jog up Hwy. 183 to Loyola Lane north of that), it’s a well-established, quiet neighborhood that been home to Austin families for decades and continues to be the location of some of the most affordable homes we’ve seen in the central city. Lately, those homes have been hitting the market more often, likely the result of the ever-eastward migration of Austinites seeking mortgage and rental relief (see also: North Austin) in a neighborhood that still has character and some neighborly ways. Big employers, such as Fed-Ex and Freescale Semiconductors, have also had a longtime presence in the area, as have some volunteer-based enterprises that need space, such as the Yellow Bike Project. The area’s natural greenery, as well as Springdale Park, make it welcoming. While it’s convenient to bus lines, it could use a few more businesses within walking distance, but that seems to be coming about, with art-oriented complexes such as Springdale General and theater company Underbelly joining such stalwart local gems as Sahara Lounge (formerly TJ’s) and Mr. Catfish.