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Hyde Park house recommended for historic zoning against owner’s wishes

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Despite objections from the owner, both the Planning Commission and the Historic Landmark Commission are recommending historic zoning for a home in the Hyde Park neighborhood.


The home, known as the Bradford-Nohra house, dates back to 1909. Dewey C. Bradford lived at the house at 4213 Avenue G. In addition to running the family business, the Bradford Paint Company, he was also respected as patron of the arts and helped President and Lady Bird Johnson select art for the White House.


Staff recommended against the historic designation for the home, citing extensive modifications to the structure, which compromised the integrity of the original design. The current owner, Helen Nohra, has lived there since the 1950’s. Her nephew, attorney Jimmy Nassour, told the Planning Commission she would like to remove the current home and replace it with two new duplexes. “The second duplex is there for income to maintain her,” he said.


According to Nassour, the house has deteriorated over the years and it would cost between $700,000 and $900,000 to restore. While the city’s historic designation would allow the owner a break on property taxes, “that’s not what is going to rehab this house,” Nassour said. “Those are nice for someone that has the money and the luxury of renovating a house like this that is going to require substantial renovations. The property condition report says the foundation, roof, structure, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC are all in deteriorated condition. The only thing they’re showing is working in good order is the doorbell.”


However, members of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association argued that the home should be preserved, since it contributed to the fabric of the Hyde Park National Register Historic District. “The preservation staff has recommended demolition of the century-old Bradford House, stating that rehabilitation would be cost-prohibitive,” said Mary Carolyn George. “How much would be left of our inventory of historic houses in Hyde Park and elsewhere if this mentality prevailed? Preserved, the house will say good things about Hyde Park. But replaced with higher density apartments or town houses, it will say bad things about the neighborhood and weaken the Hyde Park Historic District.”


Members of the Planning Commission were enthusiastic about recommending the historic designation for the home. “This case is exemplary in that it meets every one of the requirements that we put in place,” said Commissioner Jay Reddy. “For this case at least, it’s very straightforward what we would do.”


Other members of the commission urged Nohra and her family to consider the needs of the neighborhood before making any demolition or removal plans. “I think by us making a vote here tonight and taking a stand, I hope we can impress on the family that it’s a real big sacrifice to demolish this house or do anything else on this site…other than to try to rescue this house,” said Saundra Kirk. “And I think there are so many other viable options…that I absolutely support this motion to save this house.”


Nassour told the commission his aunt did not have the means to renovate the house and was not interested in selling the property, and instead wanted to remain at the location where she has lived for the past 60 years.  But he found support from only one member of the commission, Clint Small. “These folks have lived in it for 60 years, they understand and appreciate the neighborhood,” he said. “They know the value of their house and its value to the neighborhood better than anyone else should. I would think they would have a greater understanding and should be allowed the opportunity to do what they want.”


The motion to recommend historic zoning for the house passed on a vote of 7-1, with Small dissenting. It will proceed on to the City Council for final consideration.

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