Tuesday, June 8, 2021 by Amy Smith

Palm planning process kicks off, with school preservation a key goal

After years of talk, a long-held dream of creating a district that celebrates the cultural history of a historically Hispanic neighborhood in the eastern segment of downtown Austin is finally ramping up with the Palm District Planning Initiative.

The planning area includes Waller Creek, the Red River Cultural District, Palm School, Rainey Street, the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, and the Austin Convention Center. The planning district’s boundaries include 15th Street and Lady Bird Lake to the north and south, and I-35 and Trinity Street to the east and west, respectively.

The primary goal of the initiative is to hear from as many members of the community as possible, particularly those in the Mexican American community and people with direct ties to Palm School and Rainey Street, where homes have since been replaced by bars and residential towers.

“The fundamental goal of the (planning initiative) is to engage stakeholders in the public to develop a shared vision for an area of downtown that has a rich history that we know is evolving quickly and changing on a daily basis,” Mark Walters of the Housing and Planning Department told the Environmental Commission at its June 2 meeting.

The Palm School has served as a focal point for Austin’s Mexican American community for more than half a century, Walters said. The building currently serves as administrative offices for Travis County, which plans to relocate the offices to a new facility on Airport Boulevard in the near future. Alumni of Palm School have for years advocated preserving the site as a cultural resource center. Negotiations between the city and Travis County are ongoing to determine which entity will control the building’s future.

Photo by Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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City of Austin Environmental Commission: An advisory board to members of the Austin City Council. Its purview includes "all projects and programs which affect the quality of life for the citizens of Austin." In many cases, this includes development projects.

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