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Landmark commission postpones demolition in West Line Historic District

Friday, April 9, 2021 by Sean Saldaña

The Historic Landmark Commission heard a proposal last month to demolish an old building and construct a new one on a property located in the West Line Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

The building in question, at 1007 Maufrais St., is also a contributing building, meaning its presence has been deemed important to the historical character of the district.

According to city staffers, the current building is a single-story house with a metal roof that was first constructed in 1941. The new building would be two stories high and would have a more contemporary design.

In committee feedback in January, it was suggested that instead of a full demolition and rebuild, the homeowners might change the porch and windows and add a second floor, “to lessen the impact of the proposed modifications on the contributing house.”

But ultimately staffers recommended the release of a demolition permit after the completion of a city documentation package – a file of pictures and schematics and a narrative history of the building for the Austin History Center.

At the March 22 meeting, the project’s lead architect, Andrew Logan, said that the current owners purchased the property last fall and that starting out, their primary goal was to “increase street connectivity.” But as redesign discussions unfolded, it made more sense to demolish the property and rebuild it with the family’s goals in mind.

One of the property owners, Justin Thomas, also showed up to speak on the proposal, saying that the proposed new home is the “dream home” he and his wife are looking to build for their family.

The project has received some pushback.

In a citizen comment, Janice Burckhardt said, “The more homes demolished in the area, the more precarious the National Historic District designation, which is of value not only to residents of (Old West Austin) but to all of Austin.”

Kalan Contreras, staffer with the Historic Preservation Office, told the commission that one of the concerns of the Architectural Review Committee was the “visual impact” a second-floor dormer would have on the neighborhood if the new building plans were approved.

Commissioner Ben Heimsath weighed in with a similar sentiment, saying that the commission has heard from neighbors, “who had some of the same concerns as the Architectural Review Committee.”

From there, Commissioner Kevin Koch motioned to push back a decision until the April 26 meeting. Koch initially said he was willing to move forward with the plan’s proposal, but changed his mind when he remembered the building is in a National Register district.

According to Koch, “The comments are so extensive on the massing, the fenestration, the roof form, the materials … the new construction is totally incompatible and the original home really has so much going for it.”

The comments were well-received by the commissions, as they seemed to share similar concerns about preserving the historic status of the home and wanted to allow more time to explore other design options for the property.

Voting 9-1, with Commissioner Witt Featherston opposed, the commission agreed to postpone a decision until next month’s meeting.

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