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Small demo points to a “big issue” in East Austin

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

Though the Historic Landmark Commission finally had a chance to weigh in on a neighborhood demolition, that demolition will still be moving forward after members of the commission ruled that an East Austin home was not a good candidate for historic zoning.

Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky said that the house at 2101 Maple Ave. was most likely built by the Texas Lumber Company in 1956, was “a pretty stock design” for the time and did not warrant protection as an individual landmark.

Historic Landmark Commissioners ultimately agreed, voting 7-1 to release the demolition permit, with Chair Mary Jo Galindo voting in opposition and commissioners Michelle Trevino and Tiffany Osburn absent.

“On a larger level, I think what we’re seeing is some of the policies of the past that the city has implemented have created this issue now, where there is a shortage of housing, and it is escalating prices unfortunately,” said Commissioner Alex Papavasiliou. “It’s a big, big issue.”

Kristin Bevis, who has owned the home for seven years, said the home was “livable” but had a lot of problems. She acknowledged that demolition was a “touchy subject” in the neighborhood and said she was usually the only one who didn’t oppose demolition at neighborhood meetings. She also clarified that she intended to relocate the house — not demolish it.

“It’s cute on the outside. It’s even cute on the inside — paint can go a long ways — but underneath the paint there’s rotted wood, there’s roof leaks … the back of the house is sinking down,” said Bevis. “When you add it all up, it’s just not a comfortable house, and it would cost a lot to fix it.”

Brenda Mims Malik, who is the president of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, spoke against demolition or relocation. She asked the commission to at least postpone the case and to “help stop the bleeding” and give the neighborhood a chance to see if there might be some kind of compromise.

“Every week, there’s a demolition. There’s a house going down and there’s monstrosities going up. We can’t pass history on if the history is demolished,” she said. “Our neighborhood is being attacked.”

Bevis explained that she had initially intended to remodel the existing house, but after reviewing her options she planned to build a two-story home, which would allow her to also construct a smaller home in the back that she could rent out to help pay her bills.

“It’s a tough decision to make, to get rid of it and start over. I don’t think it’s funny, and I don’t think it’s great that people are doing it, but people have to make a decision on what they need to do for themselves,” she said.

Norman Scales Jr., who was born and raised in the neighborhood, said he has seen many demolitions, but they usually came to pass without a space for public input. He spoke against the demolition and asked for the commission to help find another way to maintain the history and integrity of the neighborhood.

“We have no illusions,” said Scales. “Many people are coming to East Austin to buy the land and tear down the structures to change it.”

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