What makes Austin the coolest city in America, and what drives nearly 200 new people a day to move here, is our creative class: the arts and entertainment and the creative types who drive our culture, the local community working every day to make sure we “Keep Austin Weird.”
All that growth is driving up the cost of living and making Austin an increasingly expensive place, especially for creative professionals. But that doesn’t mean that if you’re a writer, musician, photographer, designer, chef, filmmaker, or “starving artist” that you can’t still find a budget-friendly neighborhood where you’ll be surrounded by the collaborators and inspiration you need to pursue your craft — and your dreams.
Last year, the Austin Business Journal put out this census-driven local map showing which neighborhoods Austin’s creative and culinary workers were moving to & from (“Where Austin’s Creative Class is Headed”), but we wanted to hear real-life experiences straight from those trendsetters themselves, so we polled dozens of both established and up-and-coming local creative professionals to find the top 10 Austin neighborhoods they think are currently the most inspiring and buzz-worthy:
Central South Austin “South Central” (78704)
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One of Austin’s two original creative districts, “The ’04” has always been home to hippies, musicians, and artists in search of the serene, nature-driven respite from downtown that tree-lined, creek-laced, and park-filled neighborhoods like Bouldin, Zilker, and Travis Heights provide.
But while rent and property values have skyrocketed closer to downtown, there are still bargains to be had — and a thriving community of priced-out creative professionals — in the South Lamar, Barton Hills, and Dawson neighborhoods south of Oltorf.
“I’m a little biased when it comes to the neighborhood, because I live in the South Lamar area,” says Good Day Austin reporter Tania Ortega. “There are always new restaurants, bars, and cool places to grab a cup of coffee popping up everywhere. Plus, without a doubt my favorite place to get inspired is the Greenbelt. It’s beautiful when it’s been raining but it’s also just a nice place to get away from the traffic and everything that comes with living in the city of Austin.”
Full disclosure: I’m also a South Sider, first renting in Zilker but buying a home in South Lamar because it was more affordable (the same week that our neighbors Radio Coffee & Beer opened) in 2014. At a recent South Lamar Neighborhood Association meeting, the focus was on CodeNEXT, the City of Austin’s master plan for sustainable growth and maintaining the integrity of Austin’s culture and communities, and how all eyes were currently on established co-ops in 78704 — hippie holdovers from the 60s and 70s — as models for potential affordable, alternative housing developments that could be designed and built for creative professionals and which fit right into the current global trend of co-living and co-working communities.
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