Meet the Portillos
Meet the Portillos
If you ask Mario and Heather Portillo about living at Easton Park, you’re going to hear a lot about how much they love their neighbors. When the couple moved to Knob Hill in May of 2018, they didn’t realize the families on their cul-de-sac would become some of their best friends.
Mario, also known as Austin’s DJ Jason Stella, recently threw a driveway dance party for his fellow residents on Beacon Knob Way. We were thrilled to chat with him about that—and all things Easton.
EP: Thanks for doing this! So where did you guys live before Easton Park?
We had owned a home previously in the Slaughter and Mopac area, but we wanted something bigger.
EP: Do y’all have kids?
Yes, a 4-year-old girl and a 6-month-old boy.
EP: Aww! What was it that attracted you to Easton Park?
The biggest draw for us was the plan for the community and the number of amenities. There was so much being developed, and we saw potential knowing that everything was going to get developed based on a 10-year plan.
EP: Did you know you wanted to stay in South Austin?
We had explored it—the central price point was high; north Austin was more congested in terms of population. We both work up north—I work at the Domain—so when making the decision, the six-lane expansion of 183 was a driving point. It’s an easy straight shot to get up there for work. With daycare drop-off and traffic, it’s about 45-50 minutes—faster than I-35 directly.
EP: What won you over about Easton Park?
We had looked a bit, and we had some friends in other neighborhoods in South Austin, but [those neighborhoods] didn’t stack up with what was being put in [at Easton]. With Easton, there was the attraction of the school going in; we knew there was a level of investment that was there.
EP: What do you love about living here?
It’s two phases—the perfect neighborhood and perfect area, but also, we have some pretty amazing neighbors. It’s the luck of the draw! We’re on a cul-de-sac, and there’s constant text messages, the girls are coming over, and all the adults get along for drinking, hanging out and doing projects. We live on Beacon Knob way, and when our son was born, the neighbors made him a Baby Beacon t-shirt. Regardless of the house, you couldn’t buy what we have.
EP: Is it hard with social distancing? I bet you miss each other!
We’re still finding ways to have fun. Last week, I delivered White Claw to every yard on the street, set up 4000 watts of speakers, and blasted music for 2 hours so we could have a street party. There were no complaints, just thank you’s. One neighbor even dropped off cupcakes afterward. You could never really buy that. That’s what makes it amazing.
EP: What do you think it is that makes it so magical?
It’s a group of people that’s willing to take risks; they’re open to new things. Moving here at the same time allows people to develop their own community, versus if you went into an established community, they’ve already built their own bonds.
EP: Do you go to events like Parkapalooza, Easton Made, movie nights?
We do go to all of them, and we take the kids to everything. And we push on other people to come check them out. One of my co-workers—she’s scheduled to move into Skyline in the middle of May—I got her to come visit us and check out the events. That was one of the reasons we wanted to move here—we liked that it had the lifestyle director built in. Like one year for Valentine’s Day, they did childcare hosting so people could go out! I liked that concept for when they do adults-only parties, otherwise we have to get a babysitter.
EP: Let’s talk about The Union! What do you love?
There are things I take advantage of. The pool is the biggest draw. We have built a gym in our house, but I don’t have a cycle or the TV setup. I take my computer [to the Union], and they have the technology set up so I can do on-demand cycle classes.
EP: How does Easton fit into the Austin community?
All the eclectic and unique elements that make Austin an attraction are here. There’s all the involvement in sponsoring Austin events and music, not only to promote the community but because the alignment is the same. Everyone is open-minded, forward thinking, and tech savvy. 1We’re an outdoorsy community, pet-friendly, a health-and fitness focused community. All those elements are built into Austin. Then there’s the trail system that’s going in, plus all the outdoor events like food trucks and movie viewing and outdoor activities.
EP: Tell us how Easton Park is home.
For us, it’s become a way of sharing memories that are not inclusive of what we’ve done as a family. There are some annual events our street has, like my birthday happens to be on Superbowl weekend and my name is Mario, so for two years in a row we’ve hosted the Super Mario Bowl. We also have an adult Valentine’s party.
EP: What do people say when you tell them about Easton Park?
The biggest thing they say is, “Where is that?” When I describe what this is, what we’ve done, and the pricepoint, it shocks and surprises people. It’s amazing—it’s not tied into what neighborhood you’re in, but the lifestyle you can expect.
EP: How have things been lately?
There’s so much camaraderie in the neighborhood—right now there are people making free facemasks and headbands for healthcare workers to help out. If you’re on the Facebook boards, someone will say, “I’m going to grocery store, who needs anything?” Right now, we’re working with the lifestyle team to try to do another dance party for the whole neighborhood and stream it on the Easton Park page and have food truck delivery. It’s amazing. It’s a lifestyle we weren’t used to.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.