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Demolition proposal receives pushback from Tarrytown residents, commission delays decision

Monday, February 8, 2021 by Sean Saldaña

A demolition request for a 1938 home received a surprising amount of pushback from community members at the Jan. 25 meeting of the Historic Landmark Commission.

The home at 2803 Bonnie Road was first constructed for Frank D. and Ollie Lloyd, a couple who moved around Austin a few times throughout the 20th century.

According to commission documents, city staffers have evaluated the property for a possible historic landmark designation and determined that despite the building’s age, it doesn’t meet the requirements.

Staff notes that while the building’s “Tudor Revival architecture typifies (the 1930s) period of development in Tarrytown, and the house would certainly be contributing to a potential historic district,” it falls short in a number of key areas.

One of these areas: historical association. Though the building is more than eight decades old, it’s seen quite a bit of turnover in occupants. Since it was first constructed, the house has been occupied by at least five different families and at some points, even been vacant. According to city staffers, the building does not appear to have any significant historic associations.

Another important standard the building fails to meet is community value.

Staff says that “while exemplifying a stage of development and a popular architectural style in Tarrytown, the house does not possess a unique location, physical characteristic, or significant feature that contributes to the character, image, or cultural identity of the city, the neighborhood, or a particular demographic group.”

Despite lacking the qualifications to qualify for a historic designation, staffers still encouraged relocation of the property over outright demolition, but went on to recommend release of the demolition permit after the completion of a city documentation package, which would detail the history of the home for the Austin History Center.

When it came time to discuss the proposal, a number of Tarrytown residents showed up to speak in opposition, focusing their concerns primarily on quality-of-life impacts in the neighborhood.

One resident said the current owner “has no real interest in the neighborhood. She’s not going to live there … I’ve lived here for 35 years … and I’ve never seen another house quite like this before, so it seems like it’s fairly unique.” The resident went on to state that the historical value of the community is on the decline because City Council “is letting people buy permits to tear things down.”

Another resident said when it comes to reshaping communities, “developers just keep trying and keep trying and keep trying until eventually, they get their way – and the historical character of the neighborhood is eventually erased and we end up forgetting who we are and where we came from.”

A similar sentiment can be found in communications emailed to city staff before the meeting. One citizen wrote, “Builders/developers are profiting off of our historic inner-city neighborhoods. They see them as blank fields in the suburbs ready for new construction. But these neighborhoods are not that. They’re Austin’s history and character.”

On the whole, city staffers were receptive to the community’s concerns.

Steve Sadowsky with the Historic Preservation Office said he was “gratified to see that these neighbors took time out of their day to let you know their thoughts about this particular house,” and said he fully agrees with them.

In response, the commission voted to postpone a decision until later this month, “allowing people to have a discussion about whether demolition of this house is necessary or the only alternative,” according to Sadowsky.

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