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We're still at least 9 months from moving, but I think we have narrowed our neighborhoods of focus to Woodhaven or Allandale. We are trying to buy a 3 or 4 bedroom house for under $400K. I have not seen Woodhaven in person (we've only been once to town with a real estate agent), but I really fell in love with the Allandale area when we looked at a couple homes there. We're not really interested in a gigantic brand new house - we have lived in 1000 sf for the past 7 years. I think 2000ish is as big as we need.
We currently live in Northern VA in a master planned community. We really like being close to everything - we are walking distance to 3 grocery stores, several restaurants, the bank, local elementary schools, parks, pools, etc. So, basically, we like being walkable to amenities. However, part of what we dislike about our community is how far it is from the actual urban core of DC - so many great things downtown, but it is such an undertaking to get there from 25 miles out.
We have one child currently - she will be starting kindergarten in Fall 2011.
We're both hoping to work from home, although my husband may not be able to keep his current job when we move (we should know better by the spring).
We are fairly liberal politically, but I'm not asking to live somewhere with people "exactly like me." Just somewhere that I won't be an outcast for being a liberal...oh, and a heathen (we don't attend church).
We have family north of San Antonio - when we visited, Allandale didn't seem too much further than Westlake area to get on the highway to get to them (we'd probably do weekend visits a couple times a month).
Thoughts? (We obviously know where we live is subject to change depending on hubby's job situation- we're tired of ridiculous commutes)
Woodhaven is in Westlake. You'll be closer to downtown, in fact very, very close, but might feel slightly more isolated because Allandale is closer to most of the major roads and highways. I imagine the average house in the 1-2 mile radius of Woodhaven will be a lot more expensive than in Allandale. Westlake definitely has an exclusivity factor which Allandale does not, but with that comes a high snob factor.
Allandale would get the nod with slightly more walkability, but the area of Westlake you are looking is not too bad in that regard -- there is a bus route, close to grocery/post office/banks/mall. Zilker park and the greenbelt are a short drive or bus trip.
With kids, Woodhaven (Eanes) should win the ISD battle. Austin schools are much more varied in their quality. Also property taxes will be cheaper (slightly) in Woodhaven.
If it sounds like I'm recommending Woodhaven over Allandale, I'm not. It really depends on which "feel" you prefer. You should definitely visit both! They will both feel suburban, but Woodhaven moreso and less diverse.. even though it is closer to downtown. Allandale is farther from downtown, but the way Austin is laid out -- it's actually closer to most shopping and employment. It's really a convenient location.
I don't know much about Woodhaven but Allandale is near and dear to many Austinites. It has a nice variety of residents - old, young, single, married, gay, conservative, liberal and everyone tolerates each other nicely. It is comfortable and non pretentious. Shoal Creek Blvd is great for cyclists and the streets are always full of people walking or running. There are several groceries nearby - one that will be newly remodeled within walking or biking distance. Restaurants and libraries not far either. Gullett Elementary is small and has involved parents. It is also nice to be able to be between the two major north south freeways-Mopac and I-35. We go to San Antonio frequently and you might save 10-15 minutes time living in Westlake.
I think both are nice areas for a young family. Woodhaven is one of the few areas in Eanes where your child could walk to elementary (Cedar Creek), middle school (Hill Country) and possibly high school (Westlake, depending on how heavy that backpack is!). All 3 schools are rated exemplary. The families that walk together to those schools seems to develop a neighborly camaraderie. The ability to walk to school REALLY simplifies things as your kids get older, truly! You can also walk down Walsh Tarlton to groceries, restaurants, frozen yogurt, the post office, etc. You also have quick access to Loop 360 and Mopac.
Allandale has good freeway access as well and good walkability. Has some charming areas. Schools aren't rated as high as Eanes' schools, but I hear good things about Gullett.
I think your best bet is to spend a little time in each area, see where you feel most at home. They both have nice qualities but it may come down to personal fit.
I actually just looked at the Gullett website today - I was pretty impressed with it. So much happier and cheerier than the other school websites I have been looking at lately! And I thought the explanation of the garden and animals was sweet,
So, it sounds like it really IS as big of a tossup as I thought it might be?
How hard is it to get into the magnet programs at the middle and high school levels?
Another thing that might sway us - what kind of daycare options are available in either neighborhood? We are planning to add a second child in the not too distant future, and I will likely need care at least a couple days a week .
I don't know anything about Woodhaven, but I lived in Allandale for 25 years. It is a fairly liberal neighborhood, but if there is one thing that marks Allandale, it is tolerance. You will have long-time neighbors, talking-over-the-fence kind of neighbors. However, they are the kind of people who live and let live.
Very much a neighborhood feel, parents are active and involved in their children's schools, all the way through high school. I have three who went through the schools, over a span of 25 years...Gullett, Lamar, and McCallum. When my daughter was sent from Gullett to Sims Elementary during forced busing, Allandale parents made the trip every day to Sims to read to the kids and volunteer in the school and classrooms. The distance made no difference. Most of those parents still live in Allandale and have been joined by like-minded contemporaries. It is a very community-oriented place, no matter where the community calling may lie.
When my daughter returned to Gullett, Diane Crowe was the principal. She was the founder of Crowe's Nest Farm, and turned the school into a national science award winning school. They had sheep, Shetland ponies, chickens, peacocks, chinchillas, and many other animals. The kids did a traveling reptile show to other schools, accompanied by a boa constrictor. Mrs. Crowe is no longer there, but left her mark by the presence of the animals that you will still see at Gullett today.
My kids always had neighborhood friends to hang out with, kids that I had known from early childhood through graduation from high school Bike riding, walking to Northwest Park during the summer to swim, etc. I still stay in contact with their friends and Allandale families and understand that it remains much the same.
My grown children say that it was the kind of childhood they want for their own children. I can only speak for Allandale, but I think you can have confidence if you decide to go that route.
My children went to preschools in the UT area, which were excellent. However, there are preschools in the Allandale neighborhood. Many are church preschools and daycares, however if it is a case of not being opposed to churches but simply not a church-goer, I think you will find some good facilities nearby.
I grew up in Westlake back in the 80's and early 90's and went to EISD and loved it. I have since lived in Boston, LA and San Diego and have moved back to Austin and got my own place in Westlake a few years back and still love it. Neither neighborhood has really been hit all that hard with the massive changes Austin has gone through as most of that has been Downtown, up north or out by Lake Travis.
Both are fantastic neighborhoods and from what it looks like you are looking for I believe you can't do wrong in either. EISD in my opinion has the better school but I am quite biased in that regard. =)
However, as a few others mentioned about EISD and Westlake... while is is very very liberal (perhaps more than you might be comfortable with from VA) area you will have do deal with a bit of a 'snob' level. I'm not going to lie and say there aren't a few snobs around because there are. More than a few billionaires, mega millionaires, and celebrities either live in EISD or have large houses here and kids who live here, but it really isn't as bad as many in Austin make it out to be. A bit of an old rivalry between Austin and Westlake has been the cause of more than a few exaggeration.
Let's see, I guess I would PREFER a non-religious daycare or school for my kids, but I myself am the product of a Catholic HS, so I'm not completely opposed to religion. And honestly, how much religion goes into the day for a kid under 5?
As for snob factor, DC area has more than its share of snooty rich folks. We make more than 6 figures, and it feels like we are very lower middle class here. I live on the border of a couple of the richest counties in the country - it is a little depressing. And everyone has multiple degrees, of course.
Thanks for your comments so far - I really appreciate it, even if it isn't really helping me to pick one over the other right now. It does sound like I really can't go wrong with either. I wish we had a ton of time and money to travel there to spend time before moving, but it likely won't happen. We aren't even going to TX for the holidays this year because we're meeting his family in FL.
However, as a few others mentioned about EISD and Westlake... while it is very very liberal (perhaps more than you might be comfortable with from VA) area you will have do deal with a bit of a 'snob' level. I'm not going to lie and say there aren't a few snobs around because there are.
While there is some truth to this, I don't think this will be a problem in Woodhaven....it's a little more "down-to-earth-Eanes", if you will. I have a few friends who live in Woodhaven and they are just about the kindest, most "regular" types I can think of.
In any well-funded district, you are going to have people with money and kids who have a lot more than yours (I mean the collective "you") do. It kind of goes with the territory. But there's good lessons to be taught along with that.
I just re-read that comment about westlake area being "very liberal" - really? That is a little surprising to me. But your view of VA is also likely colored by our current idiot governor and attorney general - that is NOT the VA I live in. I live in the fairly reliably Democratic 'burbs of DC. Not to say we don't have our share of people who swing to the right, but I'd say I live in a fairly liberal part of the world. But I also went to school in Tobacco country, the land of Jesse Helms - and I have friends of all political leanings. I'm not afraid to share my views or get into a political debate, but it isn't something I bring up in polite conversation, if you catch my drift.
Funny side note - my daughter and I were talking about schools for next year since our plans are so up in the air, and when I told her what I had seen on the Gullett website, she got VERY excited. She thought the part about the animals was the bestest thing ever
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