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PARD pushes to use Nash Hernandez building for offices instead of senior services

Tuesday, October 25, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

The Parks and Recreation Department is pushing back against a City Council recommendation and wants to convert an idle East Austin property into office space instead of a facility for seniors and children.

In a memo released last week, PARD Director Kimberly McNeeley wrote that a recent feasibility study of the Nash Hernandez building found that the best use of the property would be to convert it to administrative use for the parks department instead of using it as an intergenerational resource and activity center (IRAC). The study, which was completed on Sept. 30, notes that PARD has the $3.3 million available to renovate the building for office use, but that money is not eligible to go toward the renovation to IRAC use, which would cost between $8.2 million and $11 million.

Earlier this year, Council appeared to have two different priorities or goals for the building, which is located on the grounds of Edward Rendon Sr. Park. In May, a resolution was approved that provided up to $550,000 to Cotera+Reed Architects Inc. for architectural and engineering services, noting, “Current programming will align with the 2014 Council approved Holly Shores/Edward Rendon Sr. at Festival Beach Master Plan to incorporate community-serving uses in addition to the PARD administrative offices.”

Less than a month later, Council directed the city manager to explore the feasibility of a proposal put forth in part by a team from the UT Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs to use the Nash Hernandez building for IRAC purposes.

The resolution noted the 78702 ZIP code where the building is located has low incomes, significant health vulnerability and “insufficient services for seniors who need case management.” However, McNeeley’s memo said, “78702 is not identified as a high-need area for child care and it is relatively rich in resources for older adults as five city of Austin recreation centers are located in the ZIP code.”

The fate of the Nash Hernandez building has been debated for much of the past decade, with PARD and the Austin Police Department collaborating on a plan in 2018 to share the space. The IRAC use would be wholly different than an office space use, with child care services and adult day center, recreation areas, an outdoor garden and walking trails. The feasibility study notes that the building lacks parking spaces and general access for the disabled, lacks drainage and water quality management systems, lacks insulation, and has developable exterior space at the rear of the property.

Earlier this month, the Community Development Commission heard a presentation from the LBJ supporters of the IRAC proposal for the Nash Hernandez building, but opted to wait a month to gather more research before voting on a recommendation to Council. While commissioners appeared generally supportive of the IRAC proposal, several had questions about funding and operational plans, and Commissioner Bertha Delgado, who represents East Austin, said community members haven’t been considered or engaged with to find out what they want to happen at the facility.

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