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Photo courtesy of Vesper

On the hunt for your new home in downtown Austin? Vesper is a new high-rise that offers laidback luxury and comfortable living in the historic Rainey Street district.

Think unpretentious luxury with a high-desert Marfa feel and nods to the local nightlife mingled throughout the building. Vesper has a sleek, utilitarian, earthy feel that makes it easy to call home.

Its 41 stories offer penthouse and one- and two-bedroom units, available in 26 individual floorplans and three curated color schemes.

And there's so much more outside your door. From the 24-hour concierge to the 41st-floor pool and rooftop lounge, Vesper’s amenities exist to enhance your living experience, day in, and day out.

The building boasts coworking spaces, a bike room and repair station, resident lounge and liquor lockers, a dog run and wash, and fitness studio and yoga studios.

Between the bustling downtown scene, iconic Rainey street bars and restaurants, and local hot spots, the opportunities for fun out and about are endless. You're also near Waller Beach, the Colorado River, and the Butler Hike and Bike Trail.

Interested in seeing it for yourself? Email info@vesperatx.com or call 512-600-2231 for more info and to set up a tour.


Photo courtesy of Vesper

Vesper offers 41 stories of laidback luxury.

Photo courtesy of Reina

New high-rise development spells the end for reigning Rainey Street bar

Make it Reina

KVUE — Another Rainey Street bar is closing its doors.

Reina announced on Instagram Friday, August 5, that its last day of operation will be Sunday, September 11. In the post, staff said they "knew this was coming and that our days were numbered."

In late July, the Austin Planning Commission reportedly approved a conditional-use permit for a four-story cocktail lounge inside a proposed 49-story high-rise at 80 Rainey St. The building site has multiple lots, including the bungalow house where Reina is located.

In a second Instagram post, Reina staff provided more information about its impending closure, saying that it is their understanding that the bungalow house will stay on the property "with the development going up around it," though they don't know what its function will be.

"We LOVE and sincerely appreciate that it's being preserved so that the old can exist with the new," Reina said in part. "The street will be different but lots of great opportunities and experiences are coming too. Rainey Street has gone through many changes over the years even before Reina and the other bars existed, and this is the net phase. And another phase will follow one day."

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Read the full story and watch the video on KVUE.com.

Photo by fstop123/Getty Images

Texas first-time buyers need $10,000 more to afford a home this year, report shows

The price is not right

The hurdles are raised for first-time homebuyers in Texas yet again, as rising interest rates demand an overall higher income for mortgage approval.

The Texas Real Estate Research Center released findings in its new Texas Housing Affordability Outlook that Texans buying their first homes need $10,000 more in income than at the beginning of last year to be approved for a $229,000 house.

Purchasing power, the center explains, and mortgage interest rates are indirectly related. Higher interest means higher monthly payments; it takes a higher income to keep up. “... As long as the rise in home prices continues to outpace the increase in income, purchase affordability, or the ability of a household to buy a home, will continue to diminish,” explains the report.

The $229,000 figure represents the first-quartile home price in Texas in Q1 2022, described as "the highest home price among those lowest-priced 25 percent of homes sold" in the state. The state's median home price for the first quarter of 2022 was $319,000. Year-over-year growth was slightly higher for the median figure (18.4 percent) than first-quartile figure (17.5 percent), but both are at their highest rates since the beginning of the chart in 2012.

The Austin-Round Rock area is, of course, driving a large part of this growth, with a 29.2 percent change in first-quartile prices since Q1 2021. That figure in Austin now sits at $420,000, almost double the state's first-quartile home price. Dallas’ numbers are slightly above the state average, San Antonio’s nearly exactly match, and Houston’s are slightly below.

Unfortunately for many Texans currently renting, only 37.4 percent of them are making the qualifying income ($61,652) to buy one of those first-quartile homes with a 3.4 percent interest rate (that was the national interest rate at the beginning of the year; by mid-May the interest rate had risen to 5.25 percent). Only 19.3 percent of Austinites are in a similar position, necessitating a six-figure income ($112,342) for the first time. This is over three times the qualifying income required in 2011 ($34,505), which a simple majority of Austinites met.

It’s not news, really, that Austinites are being priced out. Although those ratios followed a similar trajectory across the state, by the beginning of this study in 2011, Austin was already significantly the least affordable location for renters looking to buy.

Courtesy of Kuper Sotheby's International Realty

Heavenly South Austin condo goes on the market for $1.4 million

Church-to-condo conversion

A South Austin condo inside a former Catholic church just hit the market with a price tag of $1.4 million.

A 2018 remodel transformed the 1939 Mission Revival church into four condos, including the 1,889-square-foot townhouse that just went on the market. The former St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church anchors the J. Bouldin Residences development.

The condo is at 211 W. Johanna St., between South Congress Avenue and South First Street. One of the three other units within the former church went on the market in 2019 for $859,000.

Highlights of the condo that’s for sale include:

  • Two bedrooms
  • Two-and-a-half bathrooms
  • Original limestone exterior
  • 15-foot ceilings
  • 11-foot arched windows
  • Bertazzoni appliances
  • Wine bar
  • Stone countertops
  • Home office
  • Carport with space for two cars
  • Access to rooftop deck with views of downtown Austin

Aaron Scruggs and Julianna Scruggs of Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty have the listing.

The developer and its partners worked with the City of Austin for nearly five years on various design elements for the church conversion, including preservation of the limestone façade, cathedral windows, and grand staircase, Julianna Scruggs says.

“The current owners favored this unit for the privacy and natural light,” she says.

Austin’s Rhode:Partners designed J. Bouldin Residences, which features the converted church, 29 single-level condos, and five three-story townhomes.

The $1.4 million condo is inside the former St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church.

Courtesy of Kuper Sotheby's International Realty
The $1.4 million condo is inside the former St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church.
Rendering courtesy of Intracorp

New 65-story tower with luxury hotel and residences to rise in downtown Austin

reach for the sky

What promises to be the city’s new tallest residential or hotel high-rise is planned for a site next to the Austin Convention Center.

The Conrad Austin hotel and Conrad Residences Austin condos will occupy a 65-story tower that will be built at 311 E. Second St., near West Cesar Chavez and Trinity streets.

The project will feature 326 hotel rooms and 136 one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom condos, as well as nearly 10,000 square feet of restaurant space and 1,000 square feet for a cocktail lounge.

Hotel giant Hilton owns the high-end Conrad Hotels & Resorts brand.

Austin-based Intracorp Texas is developing the project, with construction on track to start in late 2022. At 750 feet high, the Conrad high-rise will be the tallest residential or hotel building in Austin, eclipsing the current titleholder: The Independent, a 58-story, 690-foot-tall residential tower at 301 West Ave.

The city’s tallest building of any type, now under construction, will be the 66-story, 875-foot-tall Sixth and Guadalupe office and residential high-rise.

Rottet Studio is designing the interiors for the Conrad project, and Page is designing the exterior. Compass Development Marketing Group is handling condo sales, which are set to kick off this spring.

Compass reports that in the past year, Austin has experienced more than a 450 percent increase in sales of luxury residences year over year, totaling almost $190 million in the Capital City in 2021.

Rendering courtesy of Lincoln Ventures

East Austin carts out grocery store and café as part of new 6-story development

east side lifestyle

A mixed-use development featuring apartments, coworking space, a grocery store, and a café is springing up in East Austin.

Austin-based real estate developer and manager Lincoln Ventures is developing the six-story project at 2700 E. Fifth St. The yet-to-be-named development will offer a total of 625 apartments, row houses, and live/work units.

Aside from the coworking space, grocery store, and café, amenities will include two outdoor pools, a gym, a spin studio, a yoga room, a pet spa, a dog run, and a catering kitchen.

Construction is set to start in the second half of 2022, with the opening tentatively scheduled for the summer of 2024.

“As East Austin continues to grow along with the city, it’s important to tap into the lifestyle needs of the area, and this project captures that energy by providing a unique variety of environments, services, and experiences to the residents and the community,” David Kanne, CEO of Lincoln Ventures, says in a news release.

Lincoln Ventures’ partner in the East Fifth Street project is ELV Associates, a Boston-based real estate investor and manager. Chicago-based Pappageorge Haymes Partners is the architect, and Austin-based Michael Hsu Office of Architecture is the interior designer.

In Austin, Lincoln Ventures is best known for its student housing developments, including The Ruckus, The Rukus 2.0, Moontower, and Waterloo. The company recently announced 80 Rainey, a 49-story tower that will include 644 rental units, along with bars and restaurants. The Rainey Street project is set for completion in the summer of 2025.

The new East Fifth Street project will include housing and coworking space.

Rendering courtesy of Lincoln Ventures
The new East Fifth Street project will include housing and coworking space.
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Comedy and intrigue pair perfectly in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Movie Review

The murder mystery genre is one that never really goes out of style, but only if it keeps up with the times. One of many issues with Kenneth Branagh recently reviving Agatha Christie’s works is that he hasn’t updated the stories at all, leaving them feeling very old-fashioned. Writer/director Rian Johnson brought the genre into the 21st century with 2019’s Knives Out, something he continues with aplomb in the pseudo-sequel, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.

Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is, like everyone else in mid-2020, struggling with the isolation of the pandemic. He gets a lifeline when he receives an invitation from billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) to join him and five of Bron’s closest friends – Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe), Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), and Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.) – at his private island in Greece for a murder mystery-themed birthday party.

What happens on the island is best left experienced by the viewer, but suffice it to say that it involves over-the-top opulence, intrigue, jealousy, double-crosses, murder, and, naturally, Blanc lending his unique perspective to everything that takes place.

If the first Knives Out was a whodunit with lots of entertaining elements, Glass Onion could be considered a comedy that just so happens to have mystery at its center. Johnson has loaded the film with characters and situations that are ridiculous, but not so exaggerated as to be off-putting. Absurdity rules the day, but in a way that complements the story instead of being jokes-for-jokes’-sake.

The group of friends, representing a wide variety of professions, at first seems to be an odd combination, but as their history is gradually revealed, the tighter they become. The ingrained dynamics that were at play with the family in Knives Out are somewhat missing here, but Johnson and the actors imbue the characters with just enough detail so that the hold they have on each other feels real instead of contrived.

One of the unexpected pleasures the film offers is the number of off-the-wall celebrity cameos it contains. Setting the story early in the pandemic is not a crucial part of the film, but doing so allows Johnson to include a Zoom call with perhaps the least-expected celebrity quartet imaginable. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who’s been in every movie Johnson has made, makes perhaps his funniest, if most invisible, appearance.

Craig, who’s been begging to get away from James Bond for years, is once again a delight. As he’s shown as Blanc and in 2017’s Logan Lucky, if you pair him with a Southern accent and the freedom comedy provides, the result is magic. The rest of the cast does well, with Norton and Monáe especially standing out.

Glass Onion is so good that you can easily see Johnson returning every few years with a fresh cast; in fact, a third film is already planned for 2024. Other than Blanc, Johnson is not relying on the same tricks this time around, indicating his creativity knows no bounds.

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Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery will be in select theaters for one week starting November 23. It will debut on Netflix on December 23.

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Daniel Craig in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.

Favorite stationery store and workshop celebrates 7 creative years in East Austin

A CUT ABOVE

What started as a single-person card-making Etsy shop has led to a thriving stationery store and workshop studio in East Austin. Pei Sim founded The Paper + Craft Pantry, which celebrated its seventh anniversary earlier this month, in 2015 as the next step to expand her two-year-old card design business. She is the sole designer of the shop’s in-house stationery line that is also printed locally.

Since the shop’s opening, their products have expanded from their famous card wall to subscription boxes, and as of this holiday season, their very first stationery advent calendar. The shop regularly releases products for special occasions such as Valentine's Day, Lunar New Year, and Christmas. In addition to stationery, the shop also provides home goods such as candles, crystals, desk supplies, chocolates, and snacks.

Like many small businesses in Austin, The Paper + Craft Pantry was no stranger to difficulties during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when in-store shopping saw a steep decline, the shop had to reinvent the way they provided customers with their well-loved stationery. The shop’s often sold-out monthly subscription box helped bridge that gap and is now in its third successful year of operation. The box is hand-curated by Sim and occasionally features exclusive products that are available to subscribers before being released in-store or online.

Another successful product line is their collaboration with fellow small business Archer & Olive. Archer & Olive is a stationery company that provides tools to improve mental wellness through journaling and creativity. Sim designed over 10 exclusive notebook cover designs that launched in 2021 and 2022, most of which are now sold out.

The shop doesn’t just fulfill stationery needs – it also hosts monthly classes in the workshop studio. Some classes are taught by Sim and others are taught by local or visiting artists. Popular workshops include watercolor painting, candle pouring, and leather bookbinding. The shop hosts seasonal workshops as well, such as Reindeer Shag Cake Decorating and Holiday Floral Arrangements.

The Paper + Craft Pantry has always been active within the creative community in Austin. Just last month, the store hosted a Fall Festival Market with several local vendors, and in November, it participated in weekends 2 and 3 of The Austin Studio Tour. Additionally, as a way to prioritize giving back to the Austin community, The Paper + Craft Pantry donates a portion of the proceeds from its in-house stationery line to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Black Mamas ATX.

Amazon rolls out new electric vans in Austin for holiday delivery season

electric avenue

Amazon CEO/occasional space traveler Jeff Bezos is doing his best to supplant a certain jolly fellow from the North Pole as tops for holiday gift delivery.

His latest move: Amazon is rolling out more than 1,000 electric delivery vehicles, designed by electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian, ready to make deliveries in more than 100 cities across the U.S. On the Texas good list: Houston, Austin, and Dallas. Bezos' juggernaut began deliveries in Dallas in July, along with Baltimore, Chicago, Kansas City, Nashville, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, and St. Louis.

These zero-emissions vans have delivered more than 5 million packages to customers in the U.S., according to Amazon. The latest boost in vehicles now includes Houston and Austin, as well as Boston; Denver; Indianapolis; Las Vegas; Madison, Wisconsin; Newark, New Jersey; New York, Oakland, California; Pittsburgh, Portland, Oregon; Provo, Utah; and Salt Lake City.

Plans for the Amazon and Rivian partnership call for thousands of vehicles on the road by the end of the year and 100,000 vehicles by 2030.

“We’re always excited for the holiday season, but making deliveries to customers across the country with our new zero-emission vehicles for the first time makes this year unique,” said Udit Madan, vice president of Amazon Transportation, in a statement. “We’ve already delivered over 5 million packages with our vehicles produced by Rivian, and this is still just the beginning—that figure will grow exponentially as we continue to make progress toward our 100,000-vehicle goal.”

This all comes as part of Amazon's commitment to reaching net-zero carbon by 2040, as a part of its The Climate Pledge; Amazon promises to eliminate millions of metric tons of carbon per year with it s commitment to 100,000 electric delivery vehicles by 2030, press materials note.

Additionally, Amazon announced plans to invest more than €1 billion over the next five years to further electrify and decarbonize its transportation network across Europe. This investment is meant to spark innovation and encourage more public charging infrastructure across the continent.

“Fleet electrification is essential to reaching the world’s zero-emissions goal,” said Jiten Behl, chief growth officer at Rivian, in a statement. “So, to see our ramp up in production supporting Amazon’s rollout in cities across the country is amazing. Not just for the environment, but also for our teams working hard to get tens of thousands of electric delivery vehicles on the road. They continue to be motivated by our combined mission and the great feedback about the vehicle’s performance and quality.”

A little about the vans: Drivers’ favorite features include a spacious cabin and cargo area, superior visibility with a large windshield and 360-degree cameras, and ventilated seats for fast heating and cooling — a must for Texas summers ... or winters, for that matter.