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East Austin development boom noticed by New York Times

Stay cool, y’all

Balcony with view of downtown Austin to the west and railroad tracks, trees below
View from The Arnold, overlooking Plaza Saltillo in East Austin
The Arnold/Facebook

On the heels of a recent report that ranked Austin the 10th “fastest-gentrifying” city in the country and focused on the phenomenon in East Austin in particular, The New York Times has published a long feature that details what’s driving the neighborhood’s long-running real estate boom.

One could say the shark had long been jumped by the time the newspaper published “‘Coolness Factor’ Draws Developers to East Austin, Tex.” in its real estate section on Tuesday, save that there are still neighborhoods and other organizations struggling to maintain some affordability (most visible recently in the Plaza Saltillo development conversation) and pushing historic and cultural preservation (notably Six Square, which runs the African American Cultural District and just got a new executive director).

Indeed, the article devotes several paragraphs to the Plaza Saltillo project, with reporter Joe Gose interviewing corporate, civic, and community players who have been closely involved with the project.

Gose also spent time with Josh Delk of Transwestern Development Company, which developed The Arnold on East Sixth and Comal streets (a building that some say suits its name), as well as the Indie Apartments across the street.

Transwestern also developed the two buildings that flank the legendary Broken Spoke honky-tonk on South Lamar Boulevard and another mixed-use building near the Arnold and across from Liberty Bar on East Sixth Street.

Delk told the Times that he start looking to invest in East Austin 10 years ago and that “edgier companies are positioning themselves appropriately” in the “creative” area, which was for decades a primarily Latino, working-class area characterized by light industry, small homes, and small neighborhood restaurants, along with a few bars, some of which served as community spaces for neighborhood, city, and state leaders.

Despite the area’s relatively short history of a mecca for those seeking of-the-minute dining and entertainment options, downtown proximity, and a patina of urban realness, Jay Lamy of local real estate company Aquila Commercial told the Times that people are still going to the Eastside because of its “coolness factor,” adding that companies would continue to locate in the area as long as the residential, retail, restaurant, and hotel projects continue to multiply.

It might be hard to see the coolness among all the construction debris, but the perception will no doubt last as long as there are places left to build on it.

‘Coolness Factor’ Draws Developers to East Austin, Tex. [NYT]