By BILL CHURCH, Four Points News
When Texans think of the state’s most affluent zip codes, the usual suspects jump quickly to mind—Highland Park, University Park and Southlake in Dallas, West University Place and Bellaire in Houston, and Fort Worth. Many do not realize that the Four Points area is home to the 8th and 28th ranked Texas zip codes for median family income (MFI) compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau for the five year period, 2007-2011. Census officials consider a five year period rolled together and adjusted for inflation the most accurate method to use.
Our own zip code 78730, including River Place, Long Canyon, Westminster Glen and Glenlake, ranks 8th with a medium family income of $175,400, compared to top-ranked Fredonia, a small community in Mason County at $238,300 and 2nd ranked Dallas Highland Park at $211,900. Fredonia hardly counts since it has a population of just 50, skewing the mathematics quite a bit.
Steiner Ranch, zip code 78732, compiled an MFI of $136,400 and ranks 28th in the state.
Our third zip code, 78726, came in at 140th with an MFI of $96,700, still quite high in a total list of 1,939 zip codes in Texas.
Comparing Four Points to wealthy Texas zip codes
While areas like Dallas Highland Park and Houston West University are quintessential old money neighborhoods which were affluent back in the 1960s, The Four Points area is much newer.
River Place/Long Canyon is the most affluent zip code in Austin, three places above West Lake Hills, zip code 78746, where the medium family income is $167,300. The Austin area’s third ranked community is Bee Cave, zip code 78738, with an MFI of $138,800, followed by Austin’s south side, Lake Austin/Barton Creek, and then Steiner Ranch.
Ryan Robinson, the City of Austin’s demographer, says Four Points’ affluent areas tend to be contiguous with similar houses and are very homogeneous socially and economically, mostly white and upper class or upper middle class. He says there is almost a complete absence of middle class housing.
Robinson points to the differences between Four Points’ affluent zip codes and West Lake Hills, zip code 78746.
“West Lake Hills has some individual incomes that are higher than any in 78730,” Robinson said. “But West Lake Hills has much more diversity since it is a larger area and contains a wider range of incomes.”
Robinson points to pockets of older housing stock in West Lake with a high rate of empty nester retention. River Place/Long Canyon, 78730, on the other hand, has much newer housing stock.
Retail, commercial comparisons by zip codes
It’s in retail where the two zip codes diverge. West Lake has a full mix of retail and office space, including Barton Square Mall, the area’s preeminent shopping destination. Comparatively speaking, 78730 in Four Points has much less retail and Robinson predicts the future will stay relatively the same.
“Four Points will increasingly become a retail center, but it is decidedly behind in services to 78746, West Lake Hills,” Robinson said. “It will take a long time to catch up to West Lake. Territory that is still undeveloped will still have residential built on it and there is not that much territory in 78730 to do much with. Environmental issues, like steep slopes, will retard development.”
West Lake Hills has major arterial roads like Bee Cave and Capitol of Texas Highway. Robinson predicts we will continue to see office market growth on those two roads and in 10-15 years a “second downtown” could develop.
Our Four Points zip code 78726 is a “different bag,” according to Robinson. Canyon Creek and The Pointe are very affluent, but there is also quite a bit of multi-family housing along RM 620, with lower incomes and more diversity.
Education comparisons by zip codes
In education, West Lake is served solely by the highly-ranked Eanes ISD. In Four Points, River Place/Long Canyon is split between school districts in Leander and Austin while 78726 is shared by Round Rock and Leander schools. Steiner Ranch is served by Leander schools. Robinson says that while Leander ISD and Round Rock ISD are highly regarded, Eanes is generally perceived as being at the very top of Austin area school districts.