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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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Thursday, November 3, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano
West Line bungalow to be demolished
After almost half-a-dozen trips to the Historic Landmark Commission, an Old West Austin house is officially beyond repair.
The 1915 bungalow, which is located at 812 Theresa Ave., was known as the Anderson-Wattinger-Sucke-Naishtat House at the most recent meeting of the Historic Landmark Commission. In September, commissioners initiated historic zoning on the house, and at their October meeting, they considered that rezoning for a fifth time.
This time, Historic Landmark commissioners opted not to move forward with the historic zoning. Instead, they voted 6-2 to release the demolition permit with commissioners Terri Myers and Beth Valenzuela voting in opposition. Commissioners Emily Reed and Michelle Trevino were absent for the vote.
Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky reiterated the fact that his office could not recommend historic zoning due to the home’s current condition, which would face an expensive rehabilitation if it were to remain standing. “I don’t think with these conditions and the owners involved that we are ever going to have a resolution that is going to result in the preservation of this house,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate that the owner paid market value for this property,” said Sadowsky. “Adding the additional several hundred thousand dollars that it would take to rehab this house just makes this a proposal that is unsustainable.”
“I don’t think anybody would argue that the house doesn’t have architectural merit to it,” said Sadowsky. “The biggest issue on this house has been its condition, because it was left abandoned by its last owners – windows opened, doors opened. The house has really suffered a lot of deterioration over the last couple of years.”
In addition to the architectural significance, Sadowsky said the house had historic associations worth noting – particularly the fact that members of the Wattinger family and Rep. Elliott Naishtat had once resided in the home.
Maureen Metteauer spoke on behalf of the Old West Austin Neighborhood Association in “hearty support” of historic zoning for the home. She said the house could be saved and that there was enough property on the lot to add a duplex, or even a duplex with garage apartments.
“This house is part of the story of Theresa. It is part of a collection of buildings that retain their historical integrity, and once it is gone, we don’t get it back,” she said, pointing out that while staff does review plans for new construction, the new construction did not have to meet design standards for approval.
“There’s a number of ways that this house could be saved, and to make it economical,” said Metteauer. “I think part of the problem is the current owner does not wish to entertain those, and has long wished to demolish this building and has said so from the outset.”
Metcalfe Wolff Stuart & Williams LLP agent Michele Rogerson Lynch, who is representing the owner, told commissioners that the home would cost about $600,000 to rehabilitate and said an estimate from those pushing for historic zoning was about half that cost, but “still cost prohibitive.”
Since the last hearing, Lynch said, the owners had been told that they were in violation of city code and needed to make repairs.
“I think it would have been really great if the person who turned us in would have done that about 15 years ago,” said Lynch. “Because maybe something could have been done.”
Photo courtesy of the city of Austin.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
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.
Old West Austin: This historic district is composed of Old Enfield, Pemberton Heights, and Bryker Woods. It borders the Clarksville Historic District and the West Line Historic District to the south. In 2003, the three neighborhoods were added to the National Register of Historic Places.