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Photo by Bex Walton

Council holds Sixth Street historic district until after summer break

Monday, June 27, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

The city will wait until July to consider creating a local historic district along a section of East Sixth Street that has been identified by a Dallas developer as prime for redevelopment.

City Council had planned to discuss and take action at its June 16 meeting on a resolution led by Council Member Kathie Tovo that would call on city staff to initiate the historic district process. That would create the design standards for the area as it moves toward redevelopment, with some new buildings expected to reach over 100 feet. The item was pulled and put on hold until July 27, Council’s first meeting after its summer recess, because the staff members needed to fully discuss the historic district process were not present at the meeting.

The matter created some tension between Tovo and attorney Richard Suttle, representative for Stream Realty Partners, the developer that has purchased more than 30 storefronts in the entertainment district and plans to demolish some of them to allow for office and hotel construction. Speaking during public comment on the item, Suttle said Stream opposes creation of the historic district and said Tovo incorrectly said in the previous work session that Stream supported the intent of her resolution.

“The facts are Stream real estate is not in favor of Council Member Tovo’s proposal, as are many property owners along East Sixth Street,” Suttle said. “I just want it clear because there was some discrepancy, whether or not Stream is in favor of it.”

Later in the meeting Tovo read from a text message she and Suttle had concerning the language, with Suttle writing, “if it can go fast and design standards make sense, it may be OK.” Suttle later apologized to Tovo for his frustration.

Other property owners spoke early in the meeting about their concerns with the city initiating a historic district as the area is set to undergo a long-desired transformation, but Tovo said the city can move that process forward along with a code amendment requested by Stream to increase building heights for redevelopment.

“The process is something that happens in sync with and in collaboration with property owners in that area, and the initiation of a local historic district is not the designating of one. That happens much later if it has enough community and Council support for a final decision,” she said.

Tovo noted that the historic district is the primary tool to set the design standards mentioned in the resolution initiating the code amendment to increase building heights.

Mayor Steve Adler had some concerns about duplication of work and possibly slowing down the revitalization of the district.

“The more I look at these two things I’m really wondering whether it ends up in a different process either way. I’m not sure, and I just have lots of questions about it and want to add further description of the process that was initiated and give it further definition,” he said.

Before the meeting, Preservation Austin issued a memo calling for the city to make up to $250,000 from the Heritage Grant program available to encourage preservation.

The memo read in part: “District-wide historic zoning is the logical next step to creating a vital, cohesive preservation vision for East Sixth Street. Local historic districts serve as a planning tool for neighborhoods to preserve heritage while agreeing on a clear set of guidelines to shape more compatible development. A local historic district here would support a balanced approach between preservation and density so that the most intact blocks of contributing buildings retain their historic character.”

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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