Hyde Park: Austin’s First Suburb

8 11 2007

Old Hyde Park c. 1900

A historic neighborhood situated in Central Austin, Hyde Park was originally a rural, 206 acre tract of land. Purchased by Monroe Shipe for the price of $70,000 in 1891, the land quickly became Austin’s first planned suburb (Photo: Austin History Center PICA o2628).

Convinced that Hyde Park boasted the most beautiful, healthful, and practical place for homes outside of the city limits, Shipe marketed his development as an affluent suburb featuring large, Queen Anne style residences. Attractions included a large open green space and manmade lake, the city’s first moonlight tower, free mail delivery twice a day, and smooth mudless roads.

Shipe was also responsible for implementing an electric street car service that connected the first Hyde Park residents to Congress Avenue and the central business district (shown in photo above). Early investors embraced Shipe’s vision and swarmed the new community. Lots were competitively priced at $50-$100. However, Shipe couldn’t sustain his early success in selling the remaining parcels of land.

“Despite the early promotions, sluggish land sales prompted considerable changes in marketing strategies within eight years of Hyde Park’s founding. Shipe ceased to advertise the area for the city’s elite, and instead portrayed it as a neighborhood for the middle and working classes. In response, Hyde Park’s architectural character shifted to smaller, more modest frame houses.” -Texas Historical Commission

Over the course of a century, the community has not lost its profound sense of place. The neighborhood is now considered the most densely occupied area in the urban core, and is widely touted as a proven model for traditional neighborhoods. The front porch way of life is unmistakable from the avenues. 

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Contributing to the charm of the community are the walkable destinations including great, local eateries serving everything from buttermilk-dipped fries at Hyde Park Bar and Grill to vegetarian fare at Mother’s. A few other Hyde Park landmarks include Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery, Elisabet Ney Museum, Fire Station 9 and Fresh Plus Grocery.


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Urban or Suburban: Where Should You Live?

1 10 2007

 Should you live downtown or in the burbs? With the re-emergence of downtown living, this question is on the minds of many in Austin. There are obvious advantages and disadvantages to both the urban and suburban way of life. But ultimately, it comes down your preferences 

So what are the top 3 advantages to urban and suburban lifestyles in Austin? I’ve lived in both Austin’s urban and suburban environments. Here’s what I think.
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Town Center Will Create Place and Value For Oak Hill Residents

24 04 2007


On March 9, 2006 the City of Austin amended its Transit Oriented Development [TOD] Ordinance to include a TOD district in Oak Hill. Since then, stakeholders in the area [residents, business owners, employees, etc.] have been participating in the planning process that will ultimately determine what the redevelopment will look like and how it will fit in the greater context of the city and region. Oak Hill by and large has received minimal attention compared to other redevelopments that are closer to Austin’s core.

The proposed TOD district will provide a walkable destination for the residents that will promote greater connectivity to downtown Austin via new transit alternatives. In the planning process, residents are requesting zoning changes that would allow for a mixed-use, live, work and play environment. The town center presents a remarkable quality of life improvement for the surrounding neighborhoods and ought to contribute to increased social engagement, environmental sensitivity and economic benefits. This type of development isn’t unique to Oak Hill; in fact, it’s the prevailing philosophy in sensible, urban growth throughout Central Texas

So how might this impact the local real estate market? The benefit of being well connected to the rest of the city will get capitalized in the market value of the land. TOD in Dallas suburbs, such as Plano and Addison, has driven property values higher. According to an impact study performed by economists from the University of North Texas, residential properties near transit stations rose 39% more than a comparable, control group of properties not served by mass transit over a four year span. The redevelopment of Oak Hill will have a similar effect on home values near the town/transit center. Austin will have its own hard data to support the TOD argument once the Red Line opens in 2008.

If you have an interest in the proposed Oak Hill town center, join us for the next neighborhood planning meeting this Thursday.

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