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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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Monday, November 10, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano
Neighborhood buys time for Cherrywood house
Though no one seemed particularly taken with the house up for demolition, concerns about the looming loss of neighborhood character in Cherrywood were enough to win a postponement at the Historic Landmark Commission’s last meeting.
Pecan Valley Homes was seeking a demolition permit for the house at 3900 Cherrywood Road, which was built in 1950.
Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky called the house “picturesque,” but that wasn’t enough for him to recommend historic designation for it.
“As lovely as the house is, and as nice as it is to the neighborhood, staff does not feel that it rises to the level of a historic landmark,” said Sadowsky. The city did encourage the applicant to retain the house, perhaps through an addition to the rear of the house.
Though the new owner told the commission that he wanted to tear down the house to build a new one, and future plans for the lot weren’t a part of the hearing at the Historic Landmark Commission, commissioners opted to postpone the case to give developers time to talk with concerned neighbors.
Jules Vieau lives next door to the house. He said that he didn’t think the house was historic “unless it turned out that Elvis was born there.” But he did think the current coherence of the neighborhood might turn out to be historic one day.
“More than anything else, I’m simply appalled at what has been proposed for the site,” said Vieau. “I think if something that seemed to be in character with the neighborhood had been proposed, I would be sitting at home tonight and waiting with eager anticipation for it to show up.”
Priscilla Boston of the Schieffer Willowbrook Neighborhood Association — which opposed the demolition — advocated the retention of the house so that it could remain affordable housing stock.
Cherrywood resident Girard Kinney spoke against the demolition, even though he acknowledged that the commission lacked the tools to save houses like the one at 3900 Cherrywood Road.
“I’m here to testify that you need better tools to be able to do that. We need to be able to do something. More carrots, more stick, whatever it takes to save these buildings and somehow make folks who want to build new buildings … replace them with buildings that are more compatible with the neighborhood,” said Kinney. “It’s a really important goal.”
“We need, as a community, to give you better tools,” Kinney continued.
Commissioner Leslie Wolfenden Guidry encouraged the neighbors to establish Local Historic District Zoning, which would allow the neighborhood to establish design standards “while the neighborhood was relatively intact.”
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Cherrywood: Sometimes known as "French Place," this central Austin neighborhood is bounded by IH-35 to the west, Airport Blvd. to the east, Manor Rd to the south and Wilshire Blvd. to the north.
Historic Landmark Commission: The city’s Historic Landmark Commission promotes historic preservation of buildings and structures. The commission also reviews applications and permits for historic zoning and historic grants.