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The Norwood House may soon get a face-lift

Thursday, November 1, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

On the northwestern corner of Interstate 35 and Riverside Drive is a plot of land that the city purchased in 1985 and that most Austinites know to be an off-leash dog park. However, also nestled on that same plot of land is a historic 1920s bungalow called the Norwood House.

Although until now the bungalow has remained unprogrammed by the Parks and Recreation Department, many groups have taken an interest in its rehabilitation over the years. No one has yet received funding to refurbish the building, but in 2011, the department performed a feasibility study with the intention of asking the public what they’d like to use the property as.

The answer was a community events space and rental venue. The only problem that remained was that there was (and is) no funding in the parks department budget to restore the home and turn it into the coveted space that the citizens requested.

So, in order to execute this vision, the city entered into an agreement with Norwood Park Foundation in 2013 to make them the custodians of and fundraisers for the property. Since then, things have been coming along. Colleen Theriot, the president of the Norwood Park Foundation, came to the Oct. 23 meeting of the Parks and Recreation Board to announce that over the last five years, the nonprofit has completed what they referred to as phase one, which included drilling a new foundation, moving the home back to its original location, and completing some environmental remediation.

In phase two, she explained, they will need to raise funds in order to rehab the original structure as well as add additional buildings and connecting infrastructure. Most of the fundraising will be through the private sphere through donations, but Theriot explained that the city has said they will match up to $2 million in donations. Additionally, $2 million of funding for the Norwood House rehabilitation was put into the 2018 Parks and Recreation bond. The hope is that by the end of this year there will be sufficient funding to move forward with the project.

Theriot told the Austin Monitor, “The total cost is estimated to be between $6-7 million. We have just entered permitting and we’re getting some new estimates at this time, but this should be fairly accurate. The cost could rise depending on how long it takes for us to begin construction and the local construction climate at that point.”

“It would be great if we could have a groundbreaking ceremony next year,” Theriot said. However, she conceded, “that would be ambitious.” According to the foundation’s website, once begun, construction is anticipated to last 18 months.

“Operations in 2020 would be fantastic, but chances are we will not get to opening day until 2021,” she told the Monitor via email.

Post-construction, the Norwood Park Foundation will be responsible for managing and maintaining the facility both as public and events space for which they will also need funding.

Theriot noted that once the project is completed, funding will no longer be an issue. “We’re more than sustainable … in the red-hot market for event space,” she said.

Nevertheless, part of the battle facing this historic home is education. “(This is) sort of a hidden gem that I wasn’t aware of,” said Board Member Frank Ward. Still, Theriot, as well as other members of the board, expressed confidence that once members of the public were aware of the plan, they would support the vision for the space.

Although there are still no definite timelines, Theriot encouraged interested parties to follow the progress of the project online.

Rendering courtesy of the Norwood Park Foundation via the city of Austin.

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