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Reporter’s Notebook: Eyes on the Prii

Monday, April 29, 2019 by Austin Monitor

Now we’re here… As public engagement sessions go, the April 27 kickoff for the input gathering process for the Drake Bridge Commons Project was certainly among the more novel we’ve encountered. Among the planned activities: actors portraying historic Austinites William Drake, Emma Long and Walter Seaholm in a nod to the creation of the South First Street bridge that was built in the early 50s while the eponymous Drake was serving as mayor. The bygone age cosplay was part of a larger effort to gather ideas for how to improve the space beneath the bridge and the surrounding hillsides, linking downtown to the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail and Lady Bird Lake. An online survey is available as another means of gathering community input on the project, though our friends at Austin Towers have already offered some colorful thoughts on the matter.

It’s official… weighs in to tell us something that’s been apparent for years now: East Austin is gentrifying at a furious rate. A nationwide study by the trade group found that the Johnston Terrace neighborhood in the 78721 ZIP code had the fourth-highest rate of gentrification in the country (the Rivertown section of Detroit came in first) with a median home price of $424,000. The troubling part of that sticker price, which has climbed 148 percent in the past five years, is that household incomes in the area have grown only 29.5 percent over the same period. That gap is fueling the low-income displacement concerns that activists and members of City Council representing the east side have expressed for years.

Prince of Peace Lutheran Church may become a Starbucks… Jason Haskins, a local historian and architect, brought the Historic Landmark Commission’s attention to the fact that the new owners of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church at 1711 E. Oltorf St. have filed a site plan to demolish the church and “replace it with a drive-through Starbucks and a carwash.” He contended that the structure deserves historic status as the first full A-frame church built in Austin that exemplifies the work of architect Eugene Wukasch, who was active nationally in the development of modern church design in the United States. Preservation Texas listed the structure on its 2019 Most Endangered Places List, citing its role in the innovation of midcentury modern sacred space architecture in Central Texas. “This is a very important building. I appreciate you bringing it to our attention,” said Commissioner Ben Heimsath, who requested that the case come back before the commission next month with a staff report on the property to consider whether or not a historic zoning process should be initiated to preserve the structure.

Speaking of electric cars… A quandary arose during a conversation over the potential benefits of electric vehicles at the Capital Metro Board of Directors meeting on Monday: what term to use when referring to Toyota Prius in the plural? Board Member Eric Stratton fumbled over the question during his confession of having previously owned two of the vehicles, offering both Prius and Priuses as possible solutions. Letting the question settle, Board Member Jeff Travillion consulted the internet some minutes later and laid the question to rest with the democratically sourced authoritative answer: Prii, pronounced PREE-eye. Travillion assured everyone that a majority, 25 percent, of participants in a survey chose the suffix over other options such as “Priem” or “Pri.” The news was bittersweet for Stratton, who lamented not knowing that when he owned the hybrid electric cars.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Chad Swiatecki, Jessi Devenyns and Ryan Thornton.

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