The Curbed Cup, our annual award for the neighborhood of the year, kicked off a couple of weeks ago, with eight neighborhoods vying for the prestigious (fake) trophy. After that week’s heated competition and a couple of upsets, four neighborhoods emerged the first round victorious. Last week, the Final Four battled it out, with two teams—both north; sorry, South Austin—emerged for the final showdown this week.
Note: Finals voting will be open through Tuesday, Jan. 2.
After weeks of friendly competition and some significant upsets, a stalwart and an upstart are the two neighborhoods that remain standing in this quest for bragging rights—and a trophy that doesn’t exist.
Let’s hear a warm Curbed Cup Finals welcome for North Loop (3) and North Austin (8)! Round Four of the cup saw a match between two underdogs—North Austin (NACA) and MLK-183. Both teams, the 3rd and 8th seeds, came out swinging in the first round, beating last year’s winner and runner-up: East César Chavez and Downtown, respectively.
NACA was pumped up heading into the semifinals and handily dispatched MLK-183 to move on to the final round.
The other Final Four round saw another East-North matchup, with neighborhoods North Loop and Cherrywood being practically across I-35 from each other and having some similarities in housing stock and neighborhood attractions.
But enough nostalgia for the past two weeks. Without further ado: Voting for the Finals is hereby open!
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).
Most Austin residents think of North Austin as general area encompassing many neighborhoods, and they’re not wrong. For the purposes of this poll, however, we’re focusing on the area covered by what is technically called the North Austin Civic Association: Boundaries are Hwy. 183/Research Boulevard to the south, Kramer Lane to the north, North Lamar Boulevard to the east, and Metric Boulevard to the west Located just west of Lamar and adjacent to the North Burnet neighborhood (which we didn’t pick because it has more businesses than residences), it’s proximate to the Domain, Top Golf, an Austin Community College Branch, the Gateway shopping/cinema complex, and the Chinatown Center, and is the locus of many major employers. Home prices—for mostly, but not all, 1960s and ‘70s tract homes—have remained affordable in the increasingly convenient area. The past couple of years have seen big strides in revitalizing the area, working with the city and grants to make it safer and more attractive. Add to that the many parks and trails nearby, and you have the makings of a pretty sweet neighborhood.
The Curbed Cup 2017 final starts at 9 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 26, and polls will be open through 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 2.