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Commission deems dilapidated Travis House historic
Monday, May 4, 2009 by Jacob Cottingham
The Travis House, a 1946-era multi-family house on
City staff had recommended that the building be preserved despite the application filed on behalf of the owners seeking a demolition permit for the structure. Gary Hamilton with Juno Development in
“It would be a mischaracterization to say that the DA’s office is in favor of any particular action,” said Assistant DA David Laibovitz. “What the DA’s office is in favor of is weeding crime from the Travis House,” he said. “There’s been lots of drug activity, there’s people living like squatters… there’s all kinds of illegal activity going on there.”
Laibovitz handles nuisance abatement cases city-wide. Whether or not the building is designated historic or is demolished, he said, “I’m not involved in that, I just have an interest in seeing that the crime goes away.”
Architect Eric Van Hyfte gave the commission a detailed presentation of the architectural elements of the building, essentially pointing out that although it did contain some components of neo-Colonialism, it also had several other “random” elements of different styles that he said diminished the historic value of the architecture.
James Ruiz, an attorney also representing the owners said that the Downtown Austin Alliance supported the demolition permit. Other citizens complained about the crime. Susan Mentor, the property manager for the last few years said, she is “in fear for my tenants – and have had a call that someone was jumped from the Dog and Duck and they thought the assailants were from the Travis House.”
However two concerned citizens seemed to present a compelling case for preservation in the commissioners’ eyes. Ora
Vice Chair John Rosato reminded the applicant that the commission is charged with evaluating the significance of the building not the effects of its abandonment.
Commissioner Terri Myers said the building is, “almost a prototype of what came later,” adding that she thinks, “it could be a great adaptive use project.” Commissioners voted unanimously to deny the demolition permit.
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