AUSTIN -- Just five years ago, Austin's Mueller neighborhood was nothing more than an abandoned airport. Today, it's a thriving area of the city, and it marked a milestone Friday.
The brand new H-E-B grocery store opened at 6 a.m. Friday to the excitement of neighbors. It's part of a booming retail and residential district that has plenty of room to grow.
The Mueller neighborhood makes up about 700 acres in Central East Austin, and developer Catellus estimates it's only one-third finished. About 3,500 people live in the neighborhood, and by the time it's completely developed, about 13,000 will likely live there.
The homes started going up in the shadow of Austin's old airport. In 2007, Catellus had a lottery to offer those who want to live here first dibs on their lots. Today, there are 5,700 single-family homes, apartments and condos at Mueller. They all pay special attention to preserving the future of the neighborhood.
Developers believe Mueller has the highest concentration of rooftop solar panels in the country. All of the homes have to earn at least three stars out of five in Austin Energy¹s Green Building Program.
This H-E-B is an environmental test store and represents the company's greenest effort. Taking five years to design and two years to construct, it's equipped with solar panels and a covered refrigeration system that's never been used in the U.S.
"This store, remarkably, uses 80 percent less power than a traditional HEB, an HEB built three years ago," said HEB Director of Public Affairs Leslie Sweet. "The Mueller neighborhood has made a commitment to environmental sustainability and HEB certainly wanted to play a big role in that."
The store's goal is to reduce energy use by 50 percent over a regular grocery store. They recycle everything from cardboard to pharmacy stock bottles, to used cooking oil and meat trimmings.
Outside, they have rain gardens that filter rainwater runoff from the parking lot. Bicycle racks are available for more than 65 bicycles.
The H-E-B is the neighborhood's first grocery store, and residents are anxious to have their own nearby as the development continues to grow.
It was just 14 years ago that jet liners and jack rabbits shared the same runway on the outskirts of Austin. The airport was relocated in 1999, and developers moved in.
"I've seen it change a lot in a short period of time," said Rose Winn. She's lived in Austin since 1986.
Winn remembers coming to Mueller to catch a plane, but now goes there with her grandson M.J.
The 700 acres have been transformed into an urban community of retail stores, homes and parks.
"It's peaceful. It's family friendly. It's Austin all the way -- outside, green trees, the water, the ducks," Winn said.
There's more to come. New homes and apartments are being built, along with more retail and office space and a children's museum.
When it's all said and done, 13,000 people will call the Mueller neighborhood "home."