Recently, we learned that Austin is the top investment city in 2020 from the recent Urban Land Institute and Pricewaterhouse Coopers Emerging Trends report. We’ve also see the revival of a term that was born from observing migration patterns of the millennial generation in the early 2000s. That term is “hipsturbia” and, according to a report in Austin Culturemap, it refers to the rise of “cool” suburbs where live-work-play environments thrive.
Those environments like the one described above attract a larger concentration of “hip” residents. Typically located near mass transit, colleges and universities, shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, examples of such suburbs include Santa Clara, California; Evanston, Illinois and Tempe, Arizona. It may come as no surprise that Austin has its own “hipsturbia” but it might be surprising which suburb has earned the designation.
Austin’s Newest Hipsturbia
Leander has a number of characteristics that make it a hip suburb, according to Vaike O’Grady, Austin regional director of Metrostudy, a provider of housing data. She spoke about the suburb at a recent Urban Land Institute luncheon in Austin. Among the reasons for the city’s status, she cites the following reasons Leander is a hipster-friendly suburb:
- Development of a 115-acre, urban-style, mixed-use project called Northline. It will infuse Leander’s downtown with a blend of multifamily, retail, restaurant, and office space, and will include a hotel and a movie theater.
- Plenty of land to build more housing. In the third quarter of 2019, Leander had nearly 4,400 undeveloped lots for single-family homes, according to Metrostudy.
- Easy access to MetroRail and the 183A toll road.
- A new $60 million, 100-acre campus of Austin Community College. A second-phase expansion is planned.
- A new full-service hospital operated by St. David’s HealthCare.
What’s in Store for Leander
Bridget Brandt, president of the Leander Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center, is thrilled about the new designation. To her, Leander earning the “hipsturbia” label elevates the city onto the official list of hot investment areas like East Austin. She says that Leander is preparing for the positive attention this new recognition will earn them with some “unique concepts” that are “hipsturbia”-friendly.
“We already have a vibrant and growing Old Town District that is the home to the Old Town Street Festival,” Brandt says. “When you visit Old Town, it just feels different. It is like stepping back to a time where people greeted you, were interested in what you had to say, and were genuinely delighted to have you visit with them.”
“I love the idea that Leander is being considered a place with a unique vibe — it’s exactly what we intended.”
A Background on “Hipsturbia”
According to CultureMap, The New York Times reportedly coined the term “hipsturbia” in a 2013 article spotlighting hipster-welcoming suburbs. “While this colonization is still in its early stages, it is different from the suburban flight of decades earlier, when young parents fled a city consumed by crime and drugs. These days, young creatives are fleeing a city that has become too affluent,” wrote Alex Williams, referring to New York City and its suburban environs.
In the Emerging Trends report, it’s estimated that there will be many cities that attempt to become a hipsturbia, but not all will achieve that goal. However, the hipsturbia trend appears to be well-established and expected to set the trend in real estate for years to come.
“As more and more suburbs — not all, but those with the right recipe — attract a critical mass of ‘hip’ residents, their success will become increasingly visible. This will multiply the number of imitators, keeping the trend going,” the report says.
The Spread of Urban Hubs
Alex Tynberg is principal of Austin-based Tynberg LLC, which is developing the much-anticipated Northline project. Construction is set to start by the end of this year and will likely be built in phases over a 10- to 15-year period. The timeline and scope of the project are similar to North Austin’s Domain and Domain Northside developments.
“Northline is not necessarily trying to become a hipster-catered community, as it will serve all of Leander and the entire Central Texas region,” Tynberg says. “Obviously, it can and will morph into whatever it eventually will be, but that is not necessarily our target focus — to be Austin’s first ‘hipsturbia.’ Certainly, others can project that, which is fine.”
Older millennials who want to buy their first homes and start families are expected to form the foundation of “hipsturbia” enclaves around the country. In a release, ULI notes that millennials in general long for suburbs that boast a “cool” factor, including art galleries, trendy restaurants, and a vibrant nightlife.
“You can take the hipster from the city, but you can’t take the city out of the hipster,” Andy Warren, director of real estate research at PwC, said recently.
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