The Curbed Cup, our annual award for the neighborhood of the year, kicked off last week with 8 neighborhoods vying for the prestigious (fake) trophy. After a last week’s heated competition and a couple of upsets, four neighborhoods emerged the first round victorious. This week the Final Four will battle it out; polls for each will be open for 48 hours for this round so you can cast your vote as to which ones should advance. Let the games carry on!
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 in the area just east of I-35, across from the UT campus, Cherrywood was farmland and hunting grounds until the 1940s, and its pastoral nature remains. Trees and greenery, rather than large homes and buildings, dominate visually. For many years long attracted students and twentysomething renters due to its then-low rent, it’s charming assortment of 1940s and ‘50s bungalows, and its and proximity to UT and Conrcordia University, local restaurants and bars, and grocery shopping. Over the years, the level of home ownership has climbed steadily, but there are still some choice rentals in the area. There are also more dining and entertainment options, with Cherrywood Coffeehouse to the north and a whole slew of restaurants and bars (including stalwarts Eastside Cafe and Mi Madre’s) along Manor Road to the south.