Photo by city of Austin
Landmark commission doubles down on Air Conditioned Village recommendation
Thursday, August 26, 2021 by Sean Saldaña
This week, the Historic Landmark Commission voted unanimously to recommend 2502 Park View Drive for historic zoning, a move working against the wish of homeowners to demolish the house.
The case has been before the commission several times as efforts to demolish the property have stalled and restarted at various times over the last few years.
Most recently, commissioners heard the case earlier this month, where they started discussions about a historic designation recommendation. The meeting Monday took those discussions a step further by officially recommending the home for historic zoning.
The tension between the homeowners and the commission comes because 2502 Park View Drive belongs to a cluster of homes known as the Air Conditioned Village. At the time the homes were constructed in the 1950s, central air hadn’t yet become commonplace in the average residential home, and the Air Conditioned Village was a test to see whether A/C could be efficient and cost-effective. This history has made the potential demolition of the home a point of concern for the landmark commission.
As the buildings have aged, in some cases their structural integrity has become compromised. Just last year, the commission granted demolition permits to two of the homes in part because of structural issues.
Speaking at the meeting in favor of demolition, contractor Dominique Levesque touched on inconsistencies he’s noted in preservation concerns over the years. In some cases, demolition permits have been granted with little pushback, whereas in others, the process has been incredibly fraught.
Levesque told the commissioners, “All the other houses in the Air Conditioned Village are granted demolition permits, and they had modern materials.”
Since the meeting earlier this month, the opposition to the demolition has grown stronger. Kevin Smith, who lives next door to the property, started a Change.org petition advocating for preservation that to date has racked up more than 500 signatures.
Ironically, many owners of the air-conditioned homes are against historic zoning and support the demolition of 2502 Park View Drive, according to Levesque, who told commissioners, “I don’t know what’s more important: an internet campaign or to listen to the citizens on the street who actually live in their Air Conditioned Village houses.”
Near the end of the meeting, Commissioner Ben Heimsath motioned to officially recommend the building for historic zoning, a process the commission initiated last month. Heimsath said he was “mindful that we have an owner that is not supportive of this, but I still hold hope that owner will be persuaded.”
Though community support for the preservation remains strong and the homeowners continue to push back against those efforts, it’s become more obvious that this discussion is becoming onerous to the commission.
Commissioner Kelly Little said, “It feels a little like Groundhog Day with this property – I feel like I’ve already said so much and I can’t keep repeating it.”
In the end, the commission voted unanimously to recommend the property for historic zoning.
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