🏘️ What makes East Austin's new apartment complex cool
Cat DeLaura/Austin Daily
- 6 min read

🏘️ What makes East Austin's new apartment complex cool

Plus, the most Texan Cybertruck you ever did see.


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🌧️ Howdy, Austin.

A new apartment complex in East Austin is taking the IKEA modular design idea to a whole new level ... and making it beautiful in the process. Read on for our thoughts after touring the new building at its SXSW open house this week.

Below you'll also find a goodbye to an Austin staple, a spotting of the most Texan Cybertruck and a roundup of three Austin-area cities that are growing like crazy.

A new kind of apartment in town

In East Austin, modular-building company Juno is leading the charge into the future of mass-timber construction. 

Its five-story, 24-unit apartment building on Comal Street opened to renters last month, with four affordable units, six short-term rentals and 14 market-priced units. 

But it's not the mass timber that makes Juno East Austin unique. Rather it's the company's approach to the construction process.

What is mass timber? Thick layers of wood are compressed to create a strong, load-bearing material capable of replacing steel and concrete in buildings as tall as 270 feet. Are they fire safe? Wood probably equals fire fuel in your brain, but fire risks are actually very minimal when done correctly. Read architecture magazine Dezeen’s deeper dive on the issue here

What makes Juno different? 

Besides just how strikingly unique and pretty its new building looks with its Corten Steel exterior rising in a city full of so many identical-looking low-rise apartment complexes, its uniqueness has more to do with the way it was built. 

Photo of Juno East Austin, a five story building, at sunset. The large glass windows reveal a warmly lit interior.
Juno, by Tobin Davies

Juno is on a mission to simplify construction, or as its slogan goes, “minimize material waste, maximize on-site productivity.”

To do this, it's designed roughly 33 parts that can be used in about 28 different configurations to build anything from studios to three-bedroom units. (The East Austin building only has studio and one-bedroom units, however.)

“It allows us to take the typical design process and really compress it down by using automation and the library of parts and pieces,” said BJ Siegel, Juno’s co-founder and former design director at Apple.

According to Siegel, the drawings for East Austin were done 50-60% faster than on a conventional project, while permitting processes were also more streamlined in Austin and other cities where projects are underway. 

Time was saved during the construction, too. Juno optimizes everything down to the way the pieces are loaded onto the trucks they’re shipped on, ensuring that once they reach the construction site, the pieces are in the order in which they’ll be used. 

Note: Despite the time-saving techniques, Juno East Austin's opening was actually delayed by roughly a year due to difficulties securing a transformer from Austin Energy — a somewhat complicated process made more complicated by the nationwide shortages and supply chain issues of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The value of those time-saving techniques can then be passed on to improving other parts of the project, Siegel explained, for example, making the housing more affordable or sustainable or the project more profitable for the developer. 

What's next for Juno?

The Austin building was a prototype for Juno, a smaller version of what's possible for them to test and measure many of their products. But, ultimately, their hope is to pursue larger, 200- to even 300-unit residential buildings.

The concept could also be used to build parts that work for retail spaces, offices or hotels.

So what are the units actually like? 

They feel surprisingly spacious despite being 15% smaller than the market average. (Juno's one-bedroom units are under 700 square feet, and studios are just under 500 square feet.) The floor-to-ceiling windows and nearly 9' tall ceilings contribute greatly to that feeling, as does the prolific use of natural wood.

A living room with hardwood floors and wooden ceiling panels, floor to ceiling windows and a couch and two chairs.
Cat DeLaura / Austin Daily

Sure, as I toured a one-bedroom unit this week as part of a SXSW-featured open house, I felt a bit like I was in a hotel room. But I'm not sure how much that is due to the impersonal design of a showroom versus the room's inherent design.

If you're looking for lots of counter space, walk-in closets or a parking garage, this might not be the apartment for you. But if you can make do with floor-to-ceiling cabinets, a walkable neighborhood and easy access to various buses and the Red Line train, this might just be the place.

Or stay for just a night in one of the Airbnb listings.

— Cat DeLaura, Reporter

Temperature: 80 degrees | Sun: Hidden | What to Expect: A few strong storms

Scattered showers are likely through lunch, and then a few storms will develop in the late afternoon and early evening. Some storms could become quite strong with gusty winds and hail as the main threats.

Mary’s Tip: Dust off the umbrella and dig out those rain boots, this is day 1 of 7 when rain is in the forecast. Hey there, spring, how ya doin'?

Surprising no one, these 3 Austin-area cities have grown like crazy

Three cities in the Austin-San Antonio corridor are among the nation’s four fastest-growing municipalities, per U.S. Census data, and a new ranking says at least two of them are pretty decent places to live. 

🏠 Georgetown was ranked No. 1 with a whopping 14.4% growth

🏠 Kyle at No. 3 with a nearly 11% population increase

🏠 Leander No. 4, also with nearly 11% growth.

HGTV, referencing the Census figures, now has named Kyle, New Braunfels and Georgetown as among the “30 best up-and-coming small cities in the United States” whose growth and economic advantages should place them “on your radar.” Hearst reporter Scott Huddleston has the full story and more stats.

Austin Graveyard: Bye-bye Frank Erwin Center

The demolition process for the giant, beige “Drum” you see off I-35 near downtown Austin started in September. Now, its exterior is comin’ down, piece by piece (it’s too close to UT, the highway and downtown to go full KABOOM.)

So we thought this would be a good time to mourn the 46-year-old sports and music venue in another installment of Austin Graveyard.

The Frank Erwin Center in 2005. Source: Larry D. Moore, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

The Frank Erwin Center was built in 1977 and was named after a UT Board of Regents member. It was primarily the home of Longhorns basketball games but has also served as a concert venue. We remember seeing the likes of The Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys there — and nearby high schools held graduation ceremonies in the building #goPvillePanthers.

It’s being torn down so that the nearby medical center can expand. And the city has had the Moody Center nearby since 2022 for Longhorns basketball games and concerts, so. 

The Drum hosted its last event in February 2022 and will be completely demolished by this fall. Let’s pour one out for the place that hosted our favorite bands over the years.

*Siri, play "Closing Time" by Semisonic*

What is your favorite memory at the Frank Erwin Center? Reply to this email with your answer.

There's a Tesla Cybertruck driving around town with longhorns on its hood

On today's episode of Only in Austin ...

Source: EvilMoPac/X

This is what happens when you take:

  • 1 part yee-haw
  • 1 part techie

A tech-yaw, if you will.

Were so glad you found us. Find our bios and contact info here, or reach out at hello@austindaily.com. Behind todays send: Katie Canales, Cat DeLaura and Mary Wasson.