Is it a neighborhood or is it an art installation, or both?
Words by Xander Peters Photos by Ashley Haguewood
Have an idea to design a different kind of neighborhood and build an assortment of sophisticated homes. Check. Minus the white-picket fences and add an alternative Austin-ish appeal. Check. Provide a lively communal aspect. Check. Let the community flourish in itself, allowing the city’s lure do the rest of the work. Check, check.
Creative, different, original, unique. Whereas most residential areas throughout Texas are built around a sort of homogeneous master plan, the Agave neighborhood falls within the contrary. For the passerby, the gaudy look of the east Austin community is of a picturesque appearance, as if it’s akin to a form of geometric expressionism: a series of multicolored homes neatly sprinkled throughout an even more neatly trimmed neighborhood.
Of course, that’s all just a fun way of saying—this place is aesthetically pleasing. Six miles from downtown, off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the Agave neighborhood, an ultra-modern residential community, is a type of haven for today’s east Austinite. But it didn’t start out that way.
Working with what began as an affordable housing project in 1996, the neighborhood was bought out and two phases of homes were constructed in 2006 and 2008. However, the company went out of business soon after. With the original premise still in mind, In-Town Homes bought the land several years later, with construction on the latest series of homes beginning last year. Only this time, though, the idea was to lean more towards a modernist style edge with an artistic sensibility: build smaller but simple—clean lines in the design, lots of natural light in each home, and build each unit to stay green and efficient, while providing a revitalized way of living.
“Our neighborhood really does attract a certain type of person,” says Erin Knox, president of the Agave Neighborhood Association. “We really have a lot of very creative folks here, and I think there’s something about the architecture itself that really draws you in.”
Beyond that, however, the neighborhood itself is a sort of socioeconomic melting pot. It’s the opposite of cookie cutter. While some residential areas consist of two adults 35-years or older and 2.5 kids, Agave bases itself around diversity. “We have people who are young and single. We have people who are married with kids. We have people who are middle aged with no kids. We have some retirees. We have gays, straights, black, white, Hispanic… Everyone has a really different age range, a different ethnicity, a different income level,” says Jason Hargraves, who with his husband moved into their home in Agave earlier this year. “Nothing really surprises me to hear where somebody in Agave works,” says Jason. “They might be a soap maker, they might be a musician, or they might be a restaurateur. It’s part of the diversity.”
One of Agave’s more unique qualities is the “house crawl” event. Once a month, neighborhood volunteers will take turns hosting a crowd of residential locals that bounce around from house to house, enjoying wine and snacks while taking in the creativity of each other’s homes. It’s not only a way to get to know people but to also see all the types of architecture that go into different homes “and just kind of enjoy it,” Erin says.
“We’re an extremely friendly community,” smiles Erin as she thinks about the friendships she’s made. “A lot of our really good friends and people we actually hang out with are right here in the neighborhood, and I think that’s really rare these days to find, where people actually know their neighbors.”
It’s an eclectic little group, true. But like how office jobs evolved with the nuances of start-up culture, is it time for the neighborhood to evolve as well? Perhaps the concept behind Agave proves so.