I haven’t lived inside the city limits of a big city since attending grad school in New Orleans. Accustomed to life in the suburbs over the past four decades, I acquiesced to the idea of living in South Austin post-retirement.
Historically, the southern boundary of Austin was the Colorado River. The early growth of the city was toward the north side. The area south of the river was neglected until a concrete bridge was completed on Congress Street in 1910.
In the 1970s, South Congress (the dividing line between two historic neighborhoods, Travis Heights and Bouldin Creek) became a popular location for artists, musicians, and their supporters. In the 1980s, small retailers and restaurants moved to South Austin, attracted by the reasonable rents.
With the influx of new companies and the workers to support them, Austin’s growth accelerated in the 1990s. Older homes in the Travis Heights and Bouldin Creek neighborhoods were popular because of their proximity to downtown as well as the restaurants and music scene.
As the city of Austin has scrambled to meet the housing needs of its new and old residents, zoning laws have changed accordingly. In many situations where developers purchase older South Austin properties with the intention of razing a smaller structure and building a newer and larger home, the city has encouraged/required developers to build two homes at the same address with an A and B designation.
Theoretically, this requirement increases housing availability as well as density. It also increases profits for the developers.
For the most part, Austin residents and businesses have followed the CDC guidelines for masking during the pandemic. While that mandate limited my ability to meet neighbors outside of the property boundaries on either side of my home, it has not limited my ability to take walks (while masked) and explore the area on foot.
The three main north/south thoroughfares are South Lamar, South 1st, and South Congress. I typically walk between 5th Street on the West, Oltorf Street on the South, Congress on the East, and Barton Creek on the North. While most of this walk is through residential neighborhoods, South 1st and South Congress (also known as SoCo) are mostly commercial.
The architecture of South Austin homes varies substantially. I’ve included a few pictures to show various designs of homes and other features.
Because of the smaller lot sizes, fences are fairly popular. Homeowners’ associations with restrictive covenants are rare, so yard art and/or unusual pets are fairly common. It’s not unusual to see a chicken coop with hens or a yard with a miniature goat or two. In the Bouldin Creek neighborhood, some homeowners have signs denoting that the wild peacocks in the area are welcome.
The canopy of live oak trees (protected by the city) shades many homes and lawns in the hot summer months. Cacti and palm trees are prevalent as well.
Given the popularity of the area with musicians and artists, sizable pieces of art placed in front and side yards are not unusual, either. Two of my favorites are a life-sized giraffe and a festive rooster with a cowboy hat.
Austin is known for its food scene, and there’s a pecking order ranging from food trucks to restaurants. Some notable restaurants have even originated from a food truck operation.
It’s great to walk around South Austin, and it will be greater when we can forget about wearing masks other than when we are home or at our tables in a restaurant. Maybe I’ll add restaurant reviews to my blog in the future. Even better, when the live music scene resumes, I intend to check it out.