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Austin, Texas Goes Luxe

Quirky city adjusts to injection of new luxury retail complexes.

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Wedged geographically between Dallas and Houston and psychographically between Cambridge and Palo Alto, Austin has long been Texas’ odd-ball city — the kind even non-Texans would dare to visit as they avoid the rest of George W. Bush territory. But the government and university town has grown rapidly in the last decade as it became home to tech companies, including Dell.


Great weather (300 days of sunshine annually, and an average year-round temp of about 70 degrees), a low cost of living (no state income taxes, an average household income of $63,000 and home prices of about $200,000) and its thriving arts scene (it’s called the “Live Music Capital of the World,” and is home to the Austin City Limits and SXSW music festivals) have brought flocks of East and West Coasters to the Texas capital, which now ranks as the 16th biggest city in the country with 1.3 million people. Those transplants brought an increased taste for the good life, threatening Austin’s quirky casual style, where even the fanciest restaurants host diners in shorts and flip-flops.


“A lot of retailers look at a market once it eclipses the million number,” said Kirk Rudy, managing principal at Endeavor Real Estate Group, which helped build The Domain. “Maybe 30 years ago, Austin was thought of as a government and university town, but now it’s so much more than that. You have this influx of East Coast and West Coast people who were accustomed to those goods, but who had to go to Dallas or Houston or even New York to get them. We were the largest city in Texas without a Neiman Marcus. Neiman’s knew exactly how much business they were doing in Austin without having a store in Austin. But still, retailers recognize that Austin is casual and merchandise accordingly.”

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