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By Jane Kellogg Murray | April 14, 2015 | Home & Real Estate
A panel of real estate experts discusses the city’s skyrocketing assets, Austin nostalgia, and the expansion and evolution of central austin neighborhoods.
A unit in the Four Seasons Residences, one of a handful of luxury condominiums in the highly coveted 78701 zip code downtown.
MARK SPRAGUE: How has Austin changed since you moved here and have been in the real estate business?
EMILY MORELAND: I have seen a fantastic change in our downtown. It was dirty, it was vacant, and there were storefronts boarded up. You felt a sense of despair back in the ’80s and ’90s. And then we had two mayors who decided we were going to have a wonderful downtown, starting with Kirk Watson [now a state senator]. Developers got on board and stepped out of their comfort zones to build these condos, because it had never been done in Austin. To have a real neighborhood downtown is exciting.
PAT TATE: I came [to Austin] in 1969, and Anderson Lane was the end of the world at that time; Burnet Road was one sign after another, and Northwest Hills was the new development.
WILL STEAKLEY: I find we are having more diversity in more pockets. We’re creating more clusters and communities, so you don’t have to make the drive to downtown. Austin has been so location-centric, and around downtown was where the energy was. Now you’re seeing these little offshoots. Whether it’s The Domain or the Hill Country Galleria or some parts of the east side, we’re starting to find these areas that are coveted. Some [businesses] that were very successful downtown are now venturing off to those new markets because there’s opportunity there.
Economist Mark Sprague (far right) discusses real estate with local experts at the W Austin. From left, Gary Dolch, founder and CEO, Austin Luxury Group, 512-656-5627; Emily Moreland, owner/broker, Moreland Properties, 512-480-0848; Will Steakley, cofounder, DEN Property Group, 512-222-3364; Laura Gottesman, owner/broker, Gottesman Residential Real Estate, 512-451-2422; Pat Tate, owner/broker, Tate Property, 512-633-0151; Mark Sprague, state director of information capital, Independence Title, 512- 454-4500.
Where do you see Austin moving—where are the new places your clients want to look?
LAURA GOTTESMAN: Obviously east. And once we have the medical school here and Waller Creek is redone, that’s going to be huge. There’s also a lot of opportunity north—not super far out, but if you look at it, there are opportunities to buy that haven’t hit the stride that the very close-in neighborhoods have. And areas north of 45th Street into Northwest Hills, Allandale, near the Triangle, north Burnet Road—have just become so vibrant. That has become the new hot place for restaurants, and it’s very family-oriented. There’s tremendous opportunity there for the people who want to be close to downtown, who work downtown, and who don’t see Tarrytown, Pemberton, or Old Enfield as options.
WS: They have these commercial corridors that run through these neighborhoods that pull the vibrancy from downtown out there—you see it in South Austin, where I live, and now you see it in East Austin. What I see when people come to Austin is they want to buy into that [vibrancy because] it’s convenient to them. And especially the people who are migrating between the West Coast, the East Coast, and Austin—Austin is their in-between path. When they’re here, they want to experience everything Austin has to offer, and that’s why our core has done so well.
As Austin grows and we continue to see appreciation, one concern is that it will lose its character. Do you think Austin has changed?
PT: Values are going up so quickly; it would be very hard for a normal young person to buy into this market.
LG: [Austin is] growing up, but I believe people in Austin have and will work to preserve it. Things change, and things become more sophisticated, but they’re also very much embraced. WS: There’s an old soul to [Austin], and there’s an old guard who protects it. You see a lot of that in my generation, where we feel like we’re stewards of what Austin was, and we want to protect that. I have a lot of friends who are taking old venues [like Antone’s] and repurposing them…. Sometimes it’s not financially based; it’s more philanthropic—“Let’s go save this piece of Austin that we don’t want to let go of”—because it is changing rapidly. A lot of people coming to Austin never got to experience what that was before.
GARY DOLCH: The people here all have to take a vested interest in remembering what old Austin was and push that forward. It takes business and city leaders to smartly plan where we’re going to grow, not restricting it too much, but allowing it to grow at a pace that Austin needs. We’re still a young city. Our city is so much smaller than most in Texas, so we’ve got a unique opportunity to grow it as efficiently as we can and still keep our vibrancy and culture.
EM: We’ve had some great leaders [who are] going out and beating the bushes to find new businesses to bring in or to help enhance the businesses that are here, and that shows tremendous belief in what we have. I have to guard myself or else I’ll sound like some sort of rabble-rouser about Austin—and Texas in general—because I feel like so many people don’t understand how great it really is. But that’s what we all feel.
PT: Our attitude for Austin, our feeling for Austin, and our love of Austin are contagious. I see that with my real estate clients. They come here and, by the time they leave, they are as in love with this city as I have always been.
photography by Zac Seewald Photography, mary kang, courtesy of tate property