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!
It’s important to note, first off, that the North Loop neighborhood used to be under the flight path for city’s Mueller Airport (now redeveloped as a planned community). Incoming planes would fly terrifying low over the neighborhood and touch ground practically on I-35 just to its east, drowning out conversations and discombobulating some of the more delicate humans and other creatures in its wake. Needless to say, it was full of cheap rentals, occupied a mix of working-class families and students on the older side of twentysomething. Its main strips, North Loop Boulevard/53rd Street and 51st Street, catered to both lifestyles with a mix of vintage clothing and furnitures stores, guitar and shoe repair shops, a coffeehouse or two, an anarchist bookstore, a metalhead pizza parlor, and, for some reason, a Mediterranean restaurant that did healthy business (the neighborhood is also a few blocks from the original Tamale House). Times changed, of course, the airport moved, and North Loop slowly, then quickly, became a hot area in which to live, and buy, if possible. Rentals became rarer, and rents much higher. Redevelopment of the Airport Boulevard Corridor, its eastern border, and of nearby Highland Mall into a community college branch, as well as the construction of some multifamily housing within the neighborhood came about. A surprising number of those older, funky businesses remain, though; now they’re just joined by some craft beer and cocktail bars, higher-end foodie spots, and, occasionally, newer versions of themselves (Epoch Coffee) or favorites from other parts of town (Home Slice Pizza will be there any day now). And while the more modest single family homes are more expensive now, there are still a lot of them in the area. All in all, it’s a pretty good model of how to incorporate Old and New (Austins, that is).
Located just south of Hwy. 290 between Manchaca Road and West Gate Boulevard, Westgate has been stealthily on the rise for years, with first-time homebuyers joining lifelong residents in the established neighborhood, snapping up its relatively affordable, mostly 1960s-80s housing stock. There are also loads of reasonably priced, well-maintained apartment complexes and duplexes to be found, as well as close access to major roads in all directions. It also has a healthy mix of restaurants, retail, and entertainment options, most fanning out around a Central Market complex; there’s also a Randall’s on the opposite side of the neighborhood. Throw in a park and a greenbelt, and you have quite a place to call home.