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Proposed East Austin demo agitates neighbors

Monday, March 23, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

The Historic Landmark Commission will decide the fate of an East Austin home built in the early 1900s. The owner of the Canterbury Street home would like to demolish it, but neighbors have asked for a hold on demolitions in the area altogether.

Last week, the commission voted unanimously to postpone the case. Commissioners Mary Jo Galindo, Leslie-Wolfenden Guidry and John Rosato were absent.

The commission must take action on the case at its meeting tonight.

Commissioners have asked for more information on the house. Commissioner Terri Myers said that, after studying the house, she believed it was built before 1909, which is currently its estimated year of construction. Commissioner Andrea Roberts asked for a more thorough history of the past inhabitants of the home.

Phil Thomas spoke on behalf of the East Town Lake Neighborhood Association, which recommended rehabilitating the house and expanding it in a way that would preserve its historic appearance.

Thomas said: “The larger question that East Town Lake explored was: When will we draw the line in front of the bulldozers? When we’re down to two or three or one extant example of a late Victorian, like 1409 Canterbury? Or will the last example crumble, unnoticed, and become a packet in the city’s archives?”

The neighborhood association has weighed in on that bigger question and, on the site of the former Jumpolín, asked the city to declare a moratorium on all new demolition permits until it could conduct a thorough review of all pending applications.

“The rate of demolition on the near-east side has quickened,” said Thomas. “The rate of displacement, the rate of loss, and the rate of loss of potential affordable housing stock has quickened.”

Amy Thompson, who is the historic preservation chair for the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Planning Team, also spoke against the demolition. She said that she has seen properties in worse shape renovated. She asked for a postponement so the team could have the house evaluated by a third party.

Thompson told the commission that the house was a good candidate for historic landmark status, and the variety of people who had lived there over the years reflected the history of the neighborhood.

Historic Preservation Office Director Steve Sadowsky said the house is in “an extreme state of disrepair.” As a result, he said that staff was unsure whether it could be sufficiently restored to receive an individual historic landmark designation.

Shawn Breedlove, representing the owner, said that their architects had determined the property was “an unremarkable example of history and architecture.” He told the commission that the wood in the house was rotten, that previous owners had added features, and that there were “many things about this property that doesn’t make it an example of something that should be preserved — especially since it’s rotten.”


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