One of the final single-family residential holdouts of the Rainey Street District has officially hit the market this week. The 1945 bungalow at 701 River Street, located on a 3,375-square-foot lot at the corner of Rainey and River Streets in the heart of the rapidly-developing entertainment district, is listed with an asking price of $10 million — and this modest home represents one of the last reminders of this area’s past as a working-class, largely Mexican American neighborhood cut off from the rest of East Austin by the construction of I-35 in the 1960s.
Despite the neighborhood’s decision to seek downtown-style upzoning in 2005 leading to a rapid wave of commercial and residential development, which quickly converted most of the single-family homes in the district to bars and restaurants or replaced them outright, the home’s owner Jesse Alba decided to stick around. Alba, who has lived in the house for more than 50 years and witnessed the neighborhood’s transformation firsthand, is the second longtime resident of the Rainey District to decide on leaving in recent years — John Contreras, the so-called “Last Man” living in a bungalow on Rainey Street proper, sold his property in 2019.
Last year I knocked on the door of a house on Rainey Street. I met the man who lives there. His name is John Contreras. That interaction kickstarted a strange relationship — one where John leaves me late-night voicemails telling me about his life. https://t.co/aQIIkcTX0A
— Audrey McGlinchy (@AKMcGlinchy) February 14, 2019
There are thousands of permanent residents now living in the district’s newer multifamily buildings, of course — but once Alba sells, the only occupied single-family residence in the neighborhood will be the house located at 59 Bierce Street across from the Mexican American Cultural Center. But while the Bierce Street home is relatively tucked away, Alba’s residence on River Street occupies one of the district’s most prominent intersections. Surrounded by towers in all directions, the address has long represented a curiosity for bar-goers and an annoyance for Alba himself:
Over the years, Alba has dealt with flooding from nearby construction zones and drunken drivers crashing into his parked truck. At least once a month a real estate agent or developer knocks on his door offering to buy his home — well, more exactly, to buy the 3,375 square feet of land on which it sits. The county currently values Alba’s 0.0775-acre lot at $353,989 — though land and homes routinely sell for far above the appraised value. He’s gotten offers that were laughably low and multimillion dollar ones too. But so far he’s said no to all.
The home’s listing agent Julie Lugo, who is also Alba’s granddaughter, says the bungalow is considered a teardown — that $10 million price tag is for the obvious development potential of the land. Despite Alba’s longtime resistance to selling the property, Lugo says he eventually decided to place it on the market after seeing the nearby sale of the former Bungalow bar site at 92 Rainey Street to make room for the Modern Austin condo tower now under construction — while the sale price for that tract hasn’t been made public, it’s rumored to be at least $9 million, now seemingly par for the course in downtown Austin’s fastest-growing district.
Leave a Reply