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Historic Landmark Commission starts Historic

Tuesday, June 27, 2000 by

Zoning process at Convention Center Hotel site

Fifth Street property home of Alamo survivor

The Historic Landmark Commission voted unanimously Monday evening to initiate the historic zoning process for property at 501 E. 5th Street, where the Hilton Hotels and the City of Austin plan to build the Convention Center Hotel. Barbara Stocklin, the city's historic zoning officer, told commissioners the site—now the home of the Pit Barbeque–served as the residence of Susanna Dickinson Hannig, one of a handful of survivors at the Alamo. Although Dickinson and her husband Joseph Hannig owned several houses in the area, the 5th Street structure is the only one associated with Dickinson that survives to this day. The house was built around 1870, Stocklin said. Speaking on behalf of the Heritage Society of Austin, Gregory Free urged the Landmark Commission to act swiftly to initiate historic landmark status for the site. Free was the only speaker at the meeting to support the designation process, which was initiated by Commissioner Patti Hall. Opposing the designation of historic landmark for the structure were architect Juan Cotera of Cotera Kolar Negrete & Reed and James Karbula, an archeologist with Hicks & Company, an environmental consulting firm. Cotera stated that one alternative to complete demolition of the structure would be to utilize original materials from the building in the creation of an historic exhibit in the lobby of the hotel. Karbula acknowledged that the building might be “a sensitive resource, based on the reputation of the people who lived there.” He stated, however, that the soft wall construction as well as the concrete flooring would hamper moving the structure. Karbula recommended “remediation and mitigation,” using state guidelines for dealing with historic structures which are not targeted for preservation. Commissioner Jim Fowler asked whether the hotel project has “so far proceeded under the assumption that the structure would be destroyed.” The answer was, “Yes.” Karbula said, “Development implies removal of the structure.” After the meeting, Cotera told In Fact Daily that the commission vote would have no effect on planning of the hotel. “We’ll just keep working,” he said. “We’ll work with the commission.” He said the decision to seek historic zoning is “not good or bad at this point.” “We’ve been working to preserve the meaning of the house from the beginning. We’ve been working with the State,” he said. Cotera pointed out that the zoning change would require a positive vote by six members of the City Council. “If they zone it (Historic), you can’t tear it down… who’s going to restore it? The State doesn’t want to. The city’s not going to put a lot of money into buying that property and restoring it– particularly when you would have to rebuild half of it.” Cotera went on to detail problems with the house. “Given that, it’s going to stay the Pit Barbeque forever, because no one’s going to come in and put in $1 million into restoring that house, tearing down everything else and making it into a museum.” Hall moved to immediately initiate consideration of the 5th Street property for historic landmark status. The commission must make a decision within 60 days, and should make a determination regarding the fate of the site at the July 24th meeting. .

City told to tow the line…Federal District Judge James Nowlin has enjoined the City of Austin from enforcing the section of its tow truck ordinance that requires towing companies to get a city permit. Assistant City Attorney Robin Sanders said the city is still able to enforce all provisions regarding safety. The city has not decided whether to appeal from the decision, Sanders said… Mine not a welcome neighbor…Representatives of the Texas Campaign for the Environment, Sierra Club, and Neighbors for Neighbors hope Travis County Commissioners will adopt a resolution today urging Alcoa not to strip mine in Bastrop and Lee Counties. Alcoa proposes to strip mine 15,000 acres for low-grade lignite to power its smelter operations in Rockdale… Austin Human Rights Commission recognized… The city HRC has won an award from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for "generating a significant positive impact on the community, demonstrating the effective use of partnership among government agencies" and using creativity in addressing problems.

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