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- August 30, 2016

Here Is Your Guide To Austin’s Most Creative Neighborhoods!

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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)

Yup. Dat's us. We here. Come by! #southcongress #southaustin #78704

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Sunday night views 🌆

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Trouble ✌🏼❤️

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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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Central East Austin “East Side” (78702)

And you're also going to see them again on Friday. 🙊👶👼🙌👯💫

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When national attention from the media highlights Austin as the #1 city for hipsters and millennials, it’s always the East Side that is the focus — and for good reason. Between the urban farms, the food trucks and concept restaurants and coffee shops, the art spaces and Open Studios, the music venues, the breweries, the Made in Austin retail and vintage shops, and the highly sought-after walk/bike score to downtown, neighborhoods like Holly and East Cesar Chavez quickly gentrified as the housing market heated up.

“When I first moved to town I was a South Sider do-or-die, then those creative folks and friends started moving farther south, and I hopped over to the East Side,” says Kate Payne, local cookbook author (The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking) and co-founder of Salud Bitters. “There are pockets of old school and new Austin all over town as our city continues to evolve. It obviously depends on budget, as housing in this city isn’t cheap any longer, but I’d say anywhere East is a good bet. Plus this is a less burdened traffic channel, so you’ll spend more time doing and less time sitting in traffic waiting.”

While it’s true that the increased cost of Central East Side living & studio space has priced out some creative professionals, others put a premium on plugging into the established energy of the neighborhood, like local Western Wear designer Kathie Sever, owner of Fort Lonesome, whose chain-stitched patches and cowboy gear have graced the pages of Vogue, the festival stages of ACL and SXSW, and the shoulders of Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club.

“We’re pretty excited to be moving our studio over to the East Side just off East Cesar Chavez near Bearded Lady,” says Sever. “It’s a super vibrant neighborhood full of nice folks doing interesting things!”

But a little farther north and east, there are thriving pockets of affordability and new projects driven by the city, cultural committees, and die-hard East Siders alike that are working hard to keep creatives in the ‘hood. The City of Austin has the Cultural Arts Division’s CAMP, a crowdsourced project established to collect, map, and hopefully protect all of the creative resources that help Austin’s creative community thrive.

One group protecting the cultural diversity that has always made East Austin a hotbed of artistic collaboration and creative inspiration is Six Square, an arts, culture, and historic preservation initiative to protect and provide visibility for the heritage of Austin’s Black Cultural District and its many current black artists. “Professor Dumpster” Jeff Wilson of Huston-Tillotson University has a new tiny house company, KASITA, that is working to keep creatives in the ‘hood and is currently building a prototype affordable micro-housing community on the East Side. And the East Side is also home to many of Austin’s creative-driven co-working spaces, like The Paper + Craft Pantry, which opened this year and offers donation-based co-working for creatives on Fridays as well as skills-based workshops throughout the week.

“If I had to pinpoint a spot in town that’s manifesting a new creative energy, I’d have to name-drop Six Square and local artist/community organizer Miriam Conner,” says Jane Claire Hervey, founder of creative women’s networking group #BossBabesATX. “I love her eye for event synergy and collaboration. Victory Grill is buzzing right now, too. The Red River district and the East 6th bar district are great places to meet people. If you’re looking for Austin’s creatives, that’s where they hang at night. I also like hitting up 11th Street for businesses like Olive, Catchtilly, Hillside Farmacy, and Charm School Vintage. I can always count on inspiration when visiting them.”

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Mueller aka “Miller” and Maplewood (78723)

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#TexasMade I overlook 2•3 like drake do the 6 #ATX #CastleHill #78723 ✊🏾💯

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I can only imagine what Bender would want with a flag. #bitemyshinymetalass #Bender #Futurama #yardart #78723

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Happy #NationalDogDay to my sweet Lil D! 💁🏼🐺💕

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Tres Amigos family photo. #family #lovesofmylife #toddlers #tresamigos #atx #78723

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#hotrods #customcars #78723

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#dumpsterwisdom #bikelean #bianchivolpe #maddie #78723

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#78723 #spratx

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Love my hood #nofilter #78723

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On the site of the old Austin airport, Mueller became the first master-planned community in Austin in 2007 and was designed to be a walkable haven with a diverse mix of housing, retail, and neighborhood resources for professionals and families. Mueller is home to The Thinkery museum, the popular weekend farmer’s market and green spaces, all in close proximity to downtown, making it an increasingly popular (aka expensive) place to live and work. But Mueller is trying to keep it affordable for the creative class by expanding its Ready, Set, Own program, and the spillover into nearby neighborhoods within the zip code has made this an increasingly attractive place to be overall for all types of musicians, artists, and startup folk alike.

Beth Nottingham, a “mom, wife, drummer, and student success evangelizer” and her husband-slash-bandmate, Phillip Niemeyer, founder of art consultation and graphic design shop Northern-Southern, originally loved their Maplewood Elementary neighborhood for its central location and good school system.

“There’s a little park right down the street that has hosted a few impromptu picnics, Contigo and Fruta Feliz are within walking distance, and we can check out anything in Mueller within minutes,” Nottingham says. “It’s also very quiet, serene, and full of natural beauty. At night, you can sometimes see bats flying around and a gray fox has even showed up on our driveway!”

But as creative professionals, they really love being surrounded by other artists of all types, and as musicians (in Telepods for Beth and together in the John-Pauls) they love that the neighbors are welcoming and tolerant of the natural noise that comes with being the Live Music Capital.

“A lot of creativity is cultivated here,” Nottingham says. “In our cul de sac alone, we’ve got an architect, graphic designer, writer, photographer, interior designer, massage therapist, auction director of the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas, urban farmer (F-Stop Farm), and even the location of the Austin Capital City Lion’s Club. Phillip and I can also have a weekly band practice in our house and no one complains (at least not yet!)”

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“South Awesome” (78745, 78748)

South Austin is growing up so fast! 1BRs start at $1165 and 2BRs are as low as $1540. And one month free whaaa??

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Ahhhh!!!! Friday night in South Austin #78745 #southaustinweird

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Garage salein' #southside #atx #austin #78748 #garagesale

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Way South Austin, known as “South Awesome” or “SoChaca” to its do-or-die residents, is a wide swath of South Central Austin home to established music venues like Indian Roller and Moontower Saloon, as well as trendy lifestyle boutiques taking a chance on the cheaper rents and creative professionals migrating below Ben White and Slaughter Lane like Love Ding home decor and Slavonk + Hortus Terraria.

“There are a lot of great spots opening up this year and next,” says photographer Chelsea Laine Francis. “I wish Way South Austin was the cultural epicenter, because I love living down here — the tacos and churros down here are THE BEST — but right now I work in East Austin.”

South Awesome is also home to South Austin’s only fenced, wooded off-leash dog run at Mary Moore Seawright Metropolitan Park, which also has a neighboring disc golf course, barbecue areas, and other recreational spaces (including horseback riding!), because when creatives aren’t working, we’re taking advantage of Austin’s outdoor lifestyle with our animals.

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North Loop (78751, 78752)

Thanks for a solid 4 years, Avenue G! Law school – let's do this! 💪🏼 #hydepark #78751 #frannytheaussie

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Here is my favorite…a 1940s central austin gem #hydepark #78751 #austin #1940 #austinrealestate #realestateinvestment #knowatx

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I wanna know the story. #78751 #hefe

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Porch is ready for plenty of quality time 👌💡 #hydepark #78751

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Loved pulling into work this morning to find this! Thanks @portraitsbybriscoe #atx #localart #portrait #painting #78752

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Traffics not so bad with #rainbows and #rainlilies #78752

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As creative Austinites got priced out of established hippie haven Hyde Park, they started migrating North and created a whole new neighborhood filled with independent, locally owned businesses redefining Austin Weird. Newcomers like Foreign + Domestic have made a splash on the local food scene, while established haunts like Room Service Vintage have long been a favorite hangout for students, designers, and fashion stylists alike.

The walkability of “The Avenues” also makes North Loop a favorite with work-from-home creative professionals who want nothing to do with the rat race commute of Austin traffic — or would prefer to go carless altogether to save the expense — while others from all over the city make the drive over to shop local first from North Loop’s awesome array of record stores, bars, and IBIZ District retailers.

“As a vintage seller, North Loop is my dream neighborhood because of all the thrift, vintage, and antique stores in the area, many within biking or walking distance,” says Catelyn Silapachai, owner and curator of The Distillery Market and Fine Goods Pop-Ups. “As someone who’s always lived South of the lake, I’m also finding there are advantages to living North, like being able to take back roads rather than trying to funnel onto a single bridge to get home. My office is inside the Loot Vintage Rentals showroom, which is really accessible from our apartment in North Loop, and if I feel like working elsewhere, Epoch Coffee is a great neighborhood spot to settle in and get work done.”

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Allandale // Burnet Road (78757)

Tagged at Crossfit Central in Austin, TX. #streetart #bikeride #78757 #exercise #spraycanart #ATX #Drib

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If ya know ya know. Welcome to our hood. #OG #Austin #VioletCrown #1950s #78757 #BBQ #Texas 📷 by @runhikeswim

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Just north of the UT campus is another thriving small business community along Burnet Road and Guadalupe marketing “Keep Austin Weird” to the masses while keeping it authentically quirky. Burnet Road is lined with independent restaurants, vintage and furniture stores that have been a mainstay of the area, and newcomers like YardBar celebrate the innovative intersections of nightlife, dog culture, and food that make Austin such a spectacular place to live. Off the main drags, Allandale is a family-friendly community full of Old Austin parks and a well-established, traditional residential feeling of quiet security.

“There are spots that are popping up as more affordable places to live, and the creatives moving to those spots bring their inspiration with them,” says author Kate Payne. “Areas like North Loop and Burnet Road, northeast areas like Cherrywood and Mueller that are not in the East 6th vicinity, all have a lot of cool things to eat, drink and do sprouting up.”

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Cherrywood (78722)

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This is an #OnlyInTexas level of awesomeness👌

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Oh East Austin, love you. #monkeytree #78722

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Also known as Upper Boggy Creek or French Place, this pocket neighborhood just east of I-35 and just west of Mueller is a storied creative enclave home to the longest-running local arts market in Austin at Cherrywood Art Fair, the Vortex Repertory and Salvage Vanguard theaters, and is also filled with mid-century modern ranches that creative professionals love for their minimalist aesthetic appeal. It’s also home to many historic and up-and-coming Best of Austin coffeehouses, restaurants, and bars along Manor Road, perfect for meeting up or collaborating and gigging with local creatives.

“I love Cherrywood, that would be my dream neighborhood,” says #BossBabesATX founder Jane Claire Hervey, who is also an entertainment, events, and apparel marketer. “If I could, I’d jump ship and get a spot over there! It’s close enough to all the fun downtown but distanced enough that I can shutter up and get some work done.”

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MLK (78721)

#78721

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#WILLIE #CREW #78721

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#CARFULLOFDOGGIES #78721 #WHOSDRIVING? #WHOCARES

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Flaunt your funky side! 💃🏽

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#ONEOFTHESCARRIESTPLACES #ONEARTH #78721 #WORSTPUMPKINPATCHEVER

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all mixed up. #austin #texas #eastaustin #horses #ridingclubs #rosewood #78721

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Austin has long been a trendsetter in the “Made in USA” movement, where American creatives are returning to manufacturing and industrial craftsmanship and celebrating locally made artisan goods. The commercial and warehouse areas bounded by Springdale Road, Way East Cesar Chavez, MLK Boulevard, and Airport Boulevard are home to the worldwide headquarters of many of those “Made in Austin” brands, which also employ scores of local creative & culinary workers: Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Maine Root Soda, and Paleo Denim, just to name a few.

The neighborhood is also home to Austin Animal Center, the nucleus of Austin creatives’ official pastime: volunteering with rescue animals. And projects like thinkEAST are working to create new mixed-use developments for Austin’s creative community, including living, working, and studio spaces — all abutting hike & bike trails and green spaces good for stretching the brain and getting back to nature, something all of our sources cited as one of their major drivers of inspiration and creativity.

“When I lived in East Riverside, my absolute favorite place to work outside of home was Zhi Tea off of Bolm Road and Airport Boulevard,” says Catelyn Silapachai, owner of The Distillery.

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Onion Creek // Dove Springs (78744)

#keepaustinweird #exceptfordovesprings #78744 #southside

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My new #car #bmw #floodwash #78744

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#rainbow #rainyday #austin #nature #instalike #igsg #picoftheday #iphoneonly #beautiful #hillcountry #512 #78744 #igsg

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While this culturally diverse Southeastern section of Austin has seen its share of man-made troubles and natural disasters in years past, it’s also an affordable district within 5 miles of downtown that abuts the airport for easy access to creative wanderlust and is home to earthly local wonders like McKinney Falls State Park and the Onion Creek Greenbelt.

The middle class — including most creatives, culinary workers, and teachers — are being priced out of downtown Central Austin, prompting Austin City Council to pass a resolution on March 3rd to explore new initiatives to provide new studio spaces and affordable housing. One idea is the reinvention of a city-owned property at 4711 Winnebago Lane, just east of I-35 and just south of Ben White in Southeast Austin, as a live-work community for local artists in collaboration with arts nonprofit Artspace.

Also in the neighborhood is the Goodwill Outlet on Burleson Road, a popular haunt of Austin’s musicians, writers, stylists, and designers (as well as general hipsters and families) looking to score vintage and designer bargains by the pound.

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East Riverside // Pleasant Valley (78741)

January 31, 2016: 86 degrees, sunny, and clear skies. Life is good. #austin #atx #riverside #78741

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Lap pool loungin #humpday #outside #summer #pool #🌊 #atx #southshoredistrict #riverside #78741

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Teeheee😛😛😛💯😎 #78741

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#vscocam my future workplace 😎 #ATX #78741 #photography #photoArts #someday #wolf ⚡

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My dinner view of the city I will always call home 😍 #dinnerview #family #capitalcity #home #purebeauty #austintx #78741

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This neighborhood just east of I-35 on the south side of Town Lake is booming with new building projects, and for good reason. Access to the recently extended Trail Foundation boardwalk and hike & bike trail, rental outposts for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and other recreation along Lakeshore Boulevard, as well as “Secret Beach” and the hundreds of acres of green space in Roy Guerrero Colorado River Park, all make this an easy choice for outdoorsy creatives who’ve been outpriced from Travis Heights or Zilker.

It’s also great for creatives who want to stay close to South Austin, Downtown, and the East Side but don’t want to pay a premium. Proximity to thriving historic neighborhood music venues like Emo’s, as well as newer creative outposts like Buzz Mill Coffee and sister event space Grizzly Hall, anchors the creative scene in this ‘hood.

Catelyn Silapachai, owner and curator of The Distillery, lived off East Riverside and Montopolis for the last three years (until a recent move to North Loop). “We chose East Riverside as a great area of Austin where I could start my business because it allowed me to have an extra room for an office and inventory for my online store,” Silapachai says. “Of course, three years ago it was a lot more affordable than it is now, but it’s still one of the best pockets of value under 5 miles from downtown!”

If you can’t find budget-friendly digs in one of these areas, don’t despair. Where you live is only one third of the equation — where you work and where you hang are just as important, and our local experts had tips for that, too. Best-selling local author and designer Austin Kleon, who penned Steal Like an Artist, says that whenever he needs inspiration, he just heads to one of Austin’s many brick-and-mortar book, comic, or record stores to instantly be reabsorbed in the creative community.

“As a reader and book lover, I’m heartened by how many great bookstores we have in Austin at the moment: BookPeople, South Congress Books, Recycled Reads, and Malvern Books are some of my favorites, but we also have other good indies like Farewell Books, Book Woman, and Brave New Books, great comic book shops like Dragon’s Lair and Austin Books and Comics, a sci-fi bookmobile called Fifth Dimension, and the various locations of Half Price Books and Barnes and Noble,” Kleon says. “I’m sure I’m still missing someplace, which just goes to show you how good things are right now.”

By now, it’s no surprise that Austin creative professionals prize our outdoor spaces, as all of our sources cited a walk in the woods or greenbelts as one of their major ways to get inspired, but author Kate Payne says there’s also just something in that Hill Country water.

“My best places for getting back in touch with my creativity are Barton Springs and Deep Eddy pools,” Payne says. “I’m the kind of person who gets a storm of ideas in the shower, so water is my place to reconnect, and we are so lucky in Austin to have these magical waters flowing up from the aquifer.”