Fort Worth is the new Austin

Fort Worth is the new Austin

As of tomorrow, I’ll have lived in Fort Worth for nine months. My wife and I pulled in on July 14th, 2014. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. My job search process had mostly sucked, and for a long time it was aimed at Boston and North Carolina. Texas hadn’t even entered the equation until around April/May, when my wife and I finally were like, “Well, we need incomes and jobs and all that.” Texas cities are growing, so we opened up the search. I think I had a final interview with my current job — the one in Fort Worth — around June 12th or so. On June 16th, I accepted. On June 23rd, I had to fly to Seattle for some trainings. (My company has an office there.) On July 1st, we flew to Fort Worth to get an apartment. On July 12th, we left Minneapolis and drove south on I-35. From June 12 to July 12 was an intense fucking month — and not to mention, that whole World Cup thing was going on the whole time.

I’m from NYC, although I had lived in Texas before (Houston, from 2003-2005). My wife is from Miami, and had never lived in Texas. (Honestly think she had only been here once or twice.) If you’re from a coast, you tend to think Ft. Worth is the same thing as Dallas — because of the whole airport idea (“D-F-W”) or whatever the case may be. Before we moved, I honestly thought they were probably similar places, or at least had a similar ethos.

In reality, they’re about 100 percent different. It’s 30 miles, maybe 40, but can feel like 30,000. The third night we lived here, we went to a bar and started talking to some people there. One guy had lived in Fort Worth for seven years. I asked him how many times he’s been to Dallas. “Two, maybe three.”

Think about how often you drive 30-40 miles. Hell, that might be your commute. Imagine you lived in a city, and there was a bigger city that far away — and in seven years, you went 3 times? Crazy, right?

It’s because the cities are very different. And honestly, if there’s a city Fort Worth is close to in terms of ethos, it might be Austin.

Let me run this down in a series of points, if I may:

  • Some believe Austin is becoming annoying: Here’s one take, and here’s another. Regardless of whether you think it’s annoying or not, here’s a fact you can’t argue with: it’s growing super-fast — like 3-4 times faster than the national average — and that growth means more traffic, less affordable housing, etc. It’s almost like a microcosm of the “San Francisco Problem” in Texas. SXSW used to be the thing; now people regularly write about how they’re sick of it.
  • Austin will always have good food, great music, good beer, an amazing university, etc. but … It might become over-crowded, yuppie-laden, and the like. As such, something else needs to step up.
  • A logical choice would be San Antonio: I went there for Halloween weekend. It’s fun. The RiverWalk is basically cookie-cutter hell in a lot of ways, but some other areas are amazing. Go to this place, for example. San Antonio has a major river, just like Austin does, and a good ol’ fashioned Hispanic vibe, just like Austin does, and the live music scene is pretty good, and I mean, the Spurs … the Spurs … so it’s a place I could see a lot of people want to move. I don’t know if there’s amazing job growth there, but I’m sure it’s not awful.
  • How about Fort Worth?

Here’s what I got for you in terms of Fort Worth as a contender for “the new Austin” (which others have also argued):

  • The River: Ft. Worth doesn’t have the Brazos, but we have the Trinity — and you’re seeing more and more places pop up along the Trinity in terms of restaurants/bars. I live right next to Woodshed Smokehouse, which abuts the Trinity. It’s an amazing vibe.
  • The School: No one would ever confuse TCU and UT-Austin on a ton of fronts, but TCU is a good school putting out good alums and … they’re probably going to open next CFB season No. 2 nationally. That’s a whole thing.
  • The Beer: Ft. Worth is really emerging in this context. Rahr, Martin House, Revolver, Panther Island, Chimera, etc.
  • The Hipsters: Five years ago, the Magnolia area was apparently a crack den. Now you’ve got dozens of bars/restaurants, hipsters galore, live music each weekend, and a booming health care industry. Ah, gentrification. Oh beautiful, for spacious skies … for amber waves of grey…
  • The Multiple Areas: Austin is cool (to me, at least) because there’s a diversity of areas you can hang out in, from UT to Sixth to East Austin, etc. Ft. Worth is developing out the same way. You got the younger and bro-y West 7th, the hipster Magnolia, the old-school Texas Stockyards, the potentially-a-little-too-white-but-still-cool downtown, etc. There’s a diversity of options.
  • Jobs: Heard some reports saying Ft. Worth is the fastest growing city in America over 750K residents. Wouldn’t be stunned by that. You see cranes and development everywhere outside of the main core.

Ft. Worth is never going to compete with Austin — well, at least not in the short term — on live music (Austin would always win) or liberalism (Tarrant County, where Ft. Worth lies, hasn’t gone for a Democrat since 1964.

But believe me:

  • It’s absolutely nothing like Dallas. There’s definitely “Texas old money” in both places, but Ft. Worth has a much looser, sit-outside-and-drink-and-listen-to-music type-vibe as opposed to Dallas proper. Dallas, to me, feels a little bit like Miami or Los Angeles without water. (That said, some of the bars are very cool.)
  • There may not be a “next Austin” just like there wasn’t a “next Michael Jordan,” but … you could do worse than picking Fort Worth as your horse in the race.

Ted Bauer


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