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Pine Street Station headed down the tracks

Tuesday, March 24, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

Though it is not what either side wanted, the Historic Landmark Commission voted Monday night in favor of a compromise at Pine Street Station.

Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky explained that the owner of the land, the Capital Metro Transportation Authority, does not object to landmarking the building. It does object to landmarking the land. Like the Texaco Building on Fourth Street that Capital Metro owns, it wants the ability to preserve the building while retaining the option to move the building.

That is exactly what commissioners opted to do, in a vote of 4-1, with Commissioner Leslie Wolfenden-Guidry voting in opposition. Chair Laurie Limbacher and Commissioner Andrea Roberts were absent.

Wolfenden-Guidry explained that, without including the other buildings in the landmarking, 414 Waller St. did not rise to the level of historic landmark status and lacks integrity.

Sadowsky said that while the commission would prefer to have the buildings preserved on the land, this was a better alternative than having them demolished altogether.

Longtime tenant Reji Thomas and onetime Pine Street Station owner Elizabeth Purcell brought the property to the commission’s attention after they learned that Capital Metro planned to demolish it to build a large Plaza Saltillo project. Thomas was evicted last year, but had operated a glass studio there since the 1970s.

Both Purcell and Thomas spoke again Monday night, and encouraged the commission to look at landmarking the other structures on the lot as well.

“I have been very, very active in the art scene, and my studio was a center for the art scene, including Austin architectural artisans, which was the preview to what everyone now knows as the East Austin Studio tour,” said Thomas. “It was the birthplace of open studio activity.”

Additionally, in the 1980s, Thomas worked on the glass for the Texas State Capitol restoration in that space.

John Hodges, vice president emeritus of real estate at Capital Metro, spoke in opposition to the zoning change. He read from a Texas Historical Commission report that argued against designating the building historic. Hodges also explained that the transportation authority was in the process of moving the building.

Eventually, the site will be home to part of the 11-acre Plaza Saltillo project, to be developed by the Endeavor Real Estate Group.

The Planning Commission will now consider the zoning case, which will ultimately be decided by City Council.

Photo from the City of Austin website.


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