One of my favorite memories of first getting to know Austin occurred during a Christmas visit when I still lived in Phoenix. My daughter Kira was working for a software company in northwest Austin and she drove me the back way to downtown — a wondrous first ride on Balcones Drive.
Though it was a cold gray winter day, I was mesmerized by the hilly, curving street, the stately old oak trees and the magnificent homes. I’m still looking for an excuse to navigate Balcones Drive.
But there is another street that captivates me in a different fashion — Mary Street. It’s an eclectic mash-up of South Austin.
A storybook abode ala Hansel and Gretel? Check. (See above)
An authentic Victorian homestead? Check.
An uber modern duplex? Check.
A geometric riddle? Check.
A castle? Check.
So, what’s not to love? The prices. Holy habitation!
The market has changed dramatically since Kira started her freshman year at St. Edward’s University in 2007. Back then Mary Street was probably attainable for many households.
Not today. I surveyed tax records for Mary Street, both east and west of Congress, and prices are through the roof. It’s a little less expensive the closer to I-35. I actually found a fixer upper off East Side Drive in Travis Heights. It doesn’t appear to be on the market but it’s easy to see the charming possibilities.
East Mary Street, I discovered, must have something special going for it. Liz Lambert, Austin’s boutique hotel superstar, owns two properties along that stretch, according to Travis Central Appraisal District.
Overall, most homes on East Mary Street homes are priced between $550,000 and $700,000, which is a bargain compared to West Mary Street.
Along the western stretch, particularly from South First to South Lamar, I counted nine homes valued at more than $1 million. One compound was most recently appraised by TCAD at $3,170,000. The tax bill was sent to a Nova Scotia, Canada address.
Oh proud Mary Street, you’re not very affordable anymore. Take this example.
A modest traditional brick home — about 1,200 square feet and built in 1937 — at 1205 W. Mary St. is on the market for $759,000, according to the listing on the web.
The property, immediately west of the railroad tracks, has been in the same family since 1966, TCAD shows. Though a homestead cap is in effect, it’s pretty astounding how much the appraised value has jumped in five years —from $373,428 in 2013 to nearly $600,000 this year. An infill development opportunity?
Meanwhile, one of the newest additions to Mary Street is a charming gabled, limestone and wood house at 1007 W. Mary. It’s on the market for $1,450,000.
Mary Street, as you can see, is no plain Jane.