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West Campus home pushes for relocation to pay property taxes

Thursday, July 5, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

As time passes, things change, and like all things in Austin, neighborhoods are feeling the effects of the city’s evolution. Once an area with stately homes, West Campus has become the de facto residence for students who share their neighborhood with offices and restaurants that occupy the grandiose homes of yesteryear.

However, the stately home at 2404 Rio Grande is still family-owned. Katy Parker, the granddaughter of the man who constructed the home in 1903, fondly remembers the days gone by and wants to preserve those memories and the home for future generations.

In order to do so, she requested at the June 25 meeting of the Historic Landmark Commission that she be allowed to move the home forward 40 feet to the edge of the sidewalk in order to better utilize the back portion of the lot for revenue-generating purposes.

“As third-generation, I want this house to be sustainable and be preserved. And the reality is it’s barely sustainable,” said Parker. Currently, the building is being rented out as office space to 512 Living, but Parker is working with architect Jimmy Holland to construct a multifamily building behind the house that will allow for a more lucrative use of the entire property.

Many of the commissioners sympathized with the situation. Commissioner Alex Papavasiliou said, “This particular property is just kind of sitting there, and it’s on the tax rolls for $2 million, so there is a lot of pressure on these property owners to keep this around.”

Despite its sympathies, the commission determined that it was unable to approve the proposal as it is currently written. “Part of its presence is because of how far back it is set from the street,” said Steve Sadowsky of the Historic Preservation Office. He suggested that instead of moving the house, the property owners should develop something in the backyard that would not require such a massive relocation.

The commissioners agreed that they were open to considering proposals for development in the backyard but were unwilling to allow the home to be brought forward, out of fear of destroying its dignified appearance. Commissioner Kevin Koch did note, “We’ve seen several cases in this neighborhood, and obviously it’s changing drastically.” Still, of the Rio Grande property, he said that relocation is considered only in extreme cases, and, “This one is where we really hold a line.”

The commission unanimously voted to postpone a decision, in order to give the property owners and architect time “to alter their proposal to something more amenable.” It will hear new proposals for development in the backyard of the property at the July 23 meeting.

Photo courtesy of the city of Austin.

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