North Loop: Old Meeting New

By: Ki Gray

The North Loop neighborhood in Austin, Texas is a vibrant, yet quaint place to call home. Over the past few years, and throughout the Austin real estate boom, it has managed its increasingly high profile while generally preserving its qualities that make it so unique and desirable.

Situated about 25 blocks north of UT campus, it has always been a safe haven for students and other left-of-center folks, who have contributed greatly to the neighborhood personality and activism since it was built (mostly in the Fifties). The most defining aspect of this area are the small, attractive houses with well-proportioned yards and lots of tree cover.

Most houses fall into the one-to-two bedroom with one bathroom size, although, like many older Austin neighborhoods, many have converted garage apartments and other nifty conversions. Converted duplexes are also common, as are full-on remodels with two stories. Such homes make it somewhat more difficult to justify moving a family, but for married and expecting couples North Loop is a perfect fit.

The main reason it has been able to resist the increasing development associated with much of central Austin (and for its low rent by Austin standards) has much to do with its less than desirable location in previous years- namely, underneath airplanes. Austin's old airport placed North Loop squarely underneath the flight path of descending planes, thereby rendering the properties much less valuable.

I remember many days playing at my father's house when all conversation would be interrupted by the mellifluous tones of jet engines roaring into the runway to the north. Those days have passed, and as the new George H.W. Bush Intercontinental airport opened, the property values soared.

Yet many residents who have been in the neighborhood for decades stayed, and with them the charm of North Loop has been mostly preserved, along with its attraction for the kitschy and unorthodox. When I lived on 51st and Avenue F, our house was purple and yellow with too many trees for our medium-sized yard, and we didn't stick out.

North Loop has also fostered a variety of small local businesses, from guitar repairman extraordinaire Walter Hutchison's Musical Exchange to the aptly named Flightpath Coffehouse. While these two specific examples have resided in the North Loop area for decades, the area has expanded to include many interesting stores such as Monkeywrench books, a self-described "anarchist book store" where activists meet to help shape the world around them.

Between Monkeywrench and local pizza restaurant The Parlor, about 3-4 shows for local bands of all persuasions go down weekly. Other personal favorites of mine include Sound on Sound Records, local bike shop The Peddler, and the self-explanatory Sign Store, although that covers less than half of the recent additions to the North Loop shopping experience. The majority of these businesses have arrived in the past ten years, but there is one common thread that unites them: local owners who are looking out for the benefit of the neighborhood.

In conclusion, if local businesses and smaller, unique houses sound like a great place to spend your days, then North Loop is the right place for you. Austin real estate has many choices, and this neighborhood is one of the unique places to end up.

America Properties
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