Austin Needs More Neighborhoods like North Campus

I moved away from the North University neighborhood earlier this week and I already miss the area. I lived near the intersection of 38th and Guad in a granny flat nestled in a former church complex. The collection of buildings was converted into residences but continues to share common spaces, which creates an intimate sense of community. College students, retirees, and families live in close proximity, making the neighborhood a more open and enjoyable place. I loved this home and the surrounding neighborhood. 

North University has a higher density than much of Austin and the location within central Austin allows for easy access to excellent dining options, retail, and services. Bounded by Guadalupe to the west, 38th to the north, Duval to the east, and UT Austin to the south the neighborhood is smack dab in the middle of central Austin. North University dwellers can hop on the 7 bus along Duval or any of the Guadalupe busses to reach any part of Austin they desire. Or they may stay in the area for their activities. 

Residents have easy access to the retail area just north of campus along San Jacinto and the Speedway curve. Guad is a quick walk, scoot, or bike ride away and the Central Market/Park area connects North University to Lamar. The delights of Hyde Park are a quick jaunt across 38th and the Hancock HEB combines with Central Market to keep North University fueled. 

One of the greatest features of North University is the abundance of green space. Adams-Hemphill Neighborhood Park, Sparky Pocket Park, Central Park, the Hancock Golf Course, and Eastwoods Neighborhood Park are all easily accessible from North University. The access to green space, retail, and services increase the quality of life for North University residents. With close proximity to so many activities residents may walk to dinner instead of hopping in a car, and along the way they may say hello to neighbors or stop in a park, adding to the sense of community in North University.

I moved to an area far away from central Austin. The houses are far apart, places to eat, shop, or find services are all a far-away along roads that make walking or biking unpleasant. There is a park, but its location within the neighborhood is not easily accessible by foot, pedal or scooter. This neighborhood is much less desirable than North University.

Austin needs more neighborhoods like North University that are dense, diverse, and close to amenities. However, the same things that make North University great force people away from the neighborhood. The central location, access to reliable transit, and proximity to activities causes the land values to rise which renders the neighborhood unaffordable to most of Austin’s population. We as Austinites must create more neighborhoods like North University and keep similar neighborhoods affordable and accessible for all.

Life in Mueller’s Mixed-Use Neighborhood

I’m a relatively recent arrival to the Mueller neighborhood, but the more time I spend here, the more I come to appreciate the unique blend of livability, amenities, and proximity to downtown that the area offers, as well as the genuine sense of community I feel here.

As a renter in Austin, I’ve sometimes felt disconnected from the neighborhoods in which I live. Renters and homeowners living in the same neighborhoods do not always share the same public space or communicate regularly. Here in Mueller, though, I feel like the neighborhood itself has been designed in a way to encourage meaningful everyday interactions among residents of all backgrounds and visitors.  

The mixture of residential, retail, and office spaces in Mueller means I have an incredible array of options for entertainment and food within walking distance of my apartment, and it also ensures that there is a sense of vitality and a human presence in the neighborhood at pretty much any time of day. A typical week for me, for instance, might involve studying or working remotely at Halcyon, grabbing a beer at WhichCraft or a pastry at Quack’s, and catching a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse. The energy at the heart of Mueller and the sheer array of options of things to do immediately made an impression on me when I first visited the neighborhood.

A fundamental part of Mueller’s vibrancy and its sense of place – something around which all the life of the neighborhood revolves – is the amazing infrastructure of public parks that the neighborhood boasts. First and foremost, there is Mueller Lake Park, which is the shared gathering space of residents of all stripes and visitors alike and home to regular farmers markets and concerts. On pretty much any given evening, you’ll see parents out strolling with their children after a visit to the Thinkery, couples enjoying a quiet moment overlooking the lake, teenagers taking photos to commemorate a quinceañera or their prom, and Austinites of all ages playing sports or exercising. This focus on welcoming, well designed public spaces is echoed in the wealth of smaller parks and public squares that dot the Mueller area, as well as the extensive Mueller greenbelt trail, and it’s one of my favorite things about living here.

These sorts of enriching human interactions are all made possible by the neighborhood’s embrace of a diverse array of housing types that make it possible for Austinites of different means and backgrounds to share a life together in this community. Walking block to block in Mueller, you’ll see apartments next to modern single-family homes next to duplexes and townhouses. This diversity of housing stock and an emphasis on density contribute to a dynamic urban fabric that makes Mueller feel at once energetic yet human in scale, modern yet still unmistakably part of Austin.

There’s no reason why the rest of Austin can’t be more like Mueller if we get the current Land Development Code rewrite right. By focusing on applying the kind of density, diversity in housing, mixed-use zoning, and public amenities that I see here in Mueller in all parts of Austin, all Austin residents will be able enjoy the kinds of benefits open to the residents of Mueller today.