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Pine Street Station may not be stationary for long

Tuesday, August 4, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

East Austin’s Pine Street Station may soon be on the move, with the unanimous approval of the Historic Landmark Commission.

In what Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky called “an extremely unusual situation,” historic zoning was extended to the building earlier this year but not to the land that it sits on. The Capital Metropolitan Transit Authority owns the land and plans to develop it as part of the larger Plaza Saltillo project. Now, in order to make way for that development, the transit authority is seeking permission to relocate the historic portion of the building at 414 Waller St. to a new site in East Austin.

The new site, which is near Highway 183 on Springdale Road, is adjacent to railroad tracks and has received the blessing of the commission’s Certificate of Appropriateness Committee and Historic Preservation Office staff.

Once moved, the building will no longer be designated historic. However, as Sadowsky explained at the commission’s July 27 meeting, CapMetro had agreed to sign a long-term maintenance agreement.

“Otherwise,” said Sadowsky, “we have no protection for the building.”

Though Historic Landmark commissioners initiated the process, City Council must ultimately approve removal of the historic zoning, which was put in place in March.

The building will soon have a private owner, and it will be incorporated into a railroad-themed public event center, according to Sadowsky’s presentation. Though he spoke in support of the relocation, Sadowsky did caution that moving the building “takes away from the true vitality of the landmark designation.” Commissioners also approved a plaque for the building that will detail its history.

Commissioner Arif Panju praised the efforts of the city in working with CapMetro for a solution in a sometimes emotional case.

“I think it’s a good resolution, and certainly a tough one. I’m glad it was handled in the way that it was,” said Panju.

Another building on the Pine Street lot remains a point of contention. Unlike most cases, in this instance the case for historic zoning was brought forward by interested citizens. Those same people remain concerned about the other building located on the rear of the property.

Gerardo Castillo, CapMetro senior vice president and chief of staff, told the commission that CapMetro had not made any plans for that building yet and had not pulled a demolition permit.

Though commissioners discussed a formal review of that building after urging from concerned resident Liz Purcell during Citizen Communication, they made no motion to put it on the agenda. Castillo had earlier explained that if the transportation authority were to pull a demolition permit, commissioners would be notified.

Commissioners Terri Myers, Grace McKenzie and Michelle Trevino were absent.

Image from a CapMetro presentation on the Pine Street Station.

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