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Historic Commission upholds demo permit for Salado Street home

Wednesday, October 6, 2010 by Kimberly Reeves

The Historic Landmark Commission held the line on a demolition permit in Central Austin last week, although Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky had to admit he was already researching an historic district for the surrounding blocks.


The conflict between individual historic landmarks and the creation of historic districts could easily be a stalemate in HLC discussions. Instead, Chair Laurie Limbacher was resolute, holding to her theory that an established historic district is a solution to neighborhoods using historic zoning to avoid tear-down issues.


The house at 2835 Salado St., just north of the University of Texas area, was called the Gafford-Fulcher House, although much of the house’s life, since it was built in 1933, had been spent as a rental property in close proximity to the University of Texas. Political consultant Mark McKinnon, among others, lived at the address during his years in Austin.


Real estate agent Margaret George insisted the house had foundation issues that made it impossible to salvage or move. Neighbors insisted the house had value as part of a potential historic district in the area. And residents of Shoal Crest chafed at the properties around them that had been cleared as part of the University Neighborhood Overlay, even as the neighborhood was protected.


Mary Ingle, who serves as co-chair of the regional neighborhood group CANPAC but does not live in Shoal Crest, spoke in favor of historic preservation, especially when it was a home was mid-block, in the middle of a historic area. Ingle recently led an ill-fated effort to save a house in the North University neighborhood. 


“One house could make the difference to this neighborhood’s existence,” Ingle said, noting that the block in question was part of “a fragile neighborhood.”


Rick Iverson was disappointed by the demolitions with the neighborhoods along the fringe of the UNO planning area. Back in 2004, neighborhoods agreed to a complex agreement with the city to protect surrounding neighborhoods.


“This is another example of the endless end run,” Iverson said. “We don’t think it’s fair. We think it goes against the grain of the agreement we made that was so unbelievably complex.”


But Sadowsky could not recommend the house for historic zoning, either on its architecture or its lineage. Commissioner John Rosato, seconded by Patti Hansen, made a motion in favor of staff recommendation. That, in fact, mirrors the membership of the HLC operations committee that is considering revisions to the current historic landmark ordinance.


Commissioner Terri Myers, supported by Meghan Kleon, favored historic zoning. Two opponents were not enough, however, and the vote tipped in favor of demolition.


Limbacher did have some interest in seeing if any other buyer had attempted to buy the house when it went on the market on July 15. The house, however, was put under contract immediately, with the intent to demolish it.

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