Austin Neighborhood Profiles: North Loop

By: Ki Gray

Just north of Hyde Park, with approximately 1400 homes, lies the neighborhood of North Loop. Also referred to as "Northfield", the North Loop neighborhood boundaries are 51st street, Lamar Boulevard, Airport Boulevard, and Koenig Lane.

Like many of Austin's central neighborhoods, North Loop got its start once soldiers began returning home from World War II. Other soldiers cashed in their GI Bill, and attended the university to get a college education. With the mass influx of people moving to Austin in the late 1940s and early 1950s, more homes had to go up quickly.

The majority of the homes in North Loop are relatively small 2 bedroom, 1 bath homes hovering around 1,000 square feet. The homes went up quickly to meet the demand, but the quality of the craftsmanship has stood the test of time, and most of the original bungalows still stand 60 years later.

As Austin became more popular, and air travel more frequent, North Loop was considered a fairly undesirable neighborhood, as it lied in the heart of the flight path, when Robert Mueller airport was in operation (reveling in this fact is one of North Loop's premier coffee shops called Flight Path).

In 1999, when Robert Mueller shut down, and Bergstrom took over as Austin's new airport, North Loop became a highly sought after neighborhood, with its close proximity to the UT campus, and about 5 miles from downtown. Some houses in the area doubled in value almost immediately.

North Loop truly has an Austin vibe about it. There is an eclectic mix of neighbors, from original residents, to college students and business owners, who all come together to embrace their neighborhood, keep the large yards and old trees looking pristine, while keeping a nonchalant attitude that gives the area a relaxed air about it.

The heart of the neighborhood is the North Loop strip, a row of all local and independent restaurants and retail shops along North Loop Boulevard, with many of the shop owners living in the area. Don't expect fancy upscale boutiques, but instead a few second-hand retro furniture and clothing shops, chocked full of unique items, as well as a bike shop, a record store and a coffee house.

The strip is also home to Austin's volunteer-run, and self-proclaimed Anarchist bookstore, MonkeyWrench Books, and risque lingerie shop, Forbidden Fruit. The Parlor is a pizza place that serves up delicious pies with designer toppings, such as goat cheese, spinach, and smoked chicken, but also hosts punk rock bands every night of the week.

The North Loop strip became an "Independent Business Investment Zone", a program set up by the Austin Independent Business Alliance to help promote independent business districts in the city. Every quarter, the strip holds block parties, bringing in bands to perform on the streets, in store sales, and other entertaining events.

Last year, Endeavor Real Estate had plans to build a 260 unit apartment complex, with an additional 5,000 square feet of retail space in the North Loop area. With an almost 50 percent division amongst the neighbors, the plans were opposed, and Endeavor halted their plans. Though neighbors have mixed emotions about changes in their neighborhood, it's this very passion that makes North Loop a tight-knit community.

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