‘Adding gasoline on the fire’: How Tesla’s factory will shape development in southeast Travis County

Travis County

TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Tesla’s big Wednesday announcement is already sparking discussion about how quickly that area is going to transform.

The automaker is building a factory in southeastern Travis County. It’s expected to invest $1.1 billion.

On Thursday, there was already a lot of excitement about the land off State Highway 130 and Harold Green Road becoming home to Tesla’s auto assembly plant.

“I’m really excited for it. It’s going to open up a lot of jobs in this area,” said Chris Barfield, who lives in Del Valle.

He said he’d be interested in applying for a job at the new plant.

“With everything going on right now and not very many places open, with a factory as big as this one that’s going to be coming in, it’s going to open up countless opportunities for jobs,” Barfield said.

Tesla is expected to employ 5,000 people, but the number of new jobs that end up being created in the area could be even higher.

The expectation is that Tesla isn’t going to be the only newcomer, because other companies could follow its lead and also come to Travis County. Those could be suppliers or other businesses in the car industry.

“They’re looking actively in this marketplace already. We’re fielding calls on a daily basis,” said Doug Launius, Principle at Marketplace Real Estate Group.

  • Construction begins at future Tesla site in Del Valle between SH 71 and Harold Green Road on SH 130 on July 23, 2020 (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)
  • Construction begins at future Tesla site in Del Valle between SH 71 and Harold Green Road on SH 130 on July 23, 2020 (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)
  • Construction begins at future Tesla site in Del Valle between SH 71 and Harold Green Road on SH 130 on July 23, 2020 (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)
  • Construction begins at future Tesla site in Del Valle between SH 71 and Harold Green Road on SH 130 on July 23, 2020 (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)

Launius’ company is building a mixed-use development called Velocity just down the road from Tesla’s site.

Besides the Velocity property, Launius explained, “We own about 900 acres in the sub-market, and we believe that each of those properties will be in demand now. We’re fielding calls on each of them.”

He added, “Land prices have been reasonable in the area for a while, and that day is over. We think that the Tesla announcement is going to drive up value somewhere between 15 and 20%.”

In regards to growth in Del Valle, Launius said, “Tesla is throwing gasoline on the fire that’s already happening out here.”

Vaike O’Grady, Austin Regional Director for Metrostudy, told KXAN Del Valle has been growing fast.

“A lot of that is driven from people who are buying their first home, perhaps wanting to get out of more dense areas, maybe get out of apartment living, purchase their first home with low interest rates, and areas like Del Valle are blooming as a result,” she said.

According to Metrostudy, there were 368 new home starts in the second quarter in 2020 in the Del Valle sub-market. That’s an 84% increase from the same time period last year.

“I mean, State Highway 130 has really made that area more viable as a place to live,” O’Grady said.

She said prices have remained affordable in this area.

“But when something like Tesla happens, and we saw this when the Apple announcement happened, you start to see that increased demand to live close by, and that will push prices,” O’Grady said.

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