In 2019, a KUT report launched Austinites to John Contreras, then often called “The Final Man on Rainey Avenue.”
Rainey Avenue, traditionally a residential neighborhood, has change into one of many metropolis’s most outstanding facilities for nightlife and large-scale improvement.
Contreras’ story was noteworthy as a result of in contrast to many present Rainey Avenue residents, he didn’t reside in an costly condominium and he wasn’t new to the neighborhood. Contreras lived in a small home at 71 Rainey St. that had been in his household for the reason that Forties. Whereas most of the neighborhood’s residents have moved away up to now few a long time, Contreras stayed.
Ultimately, Contreras sold the property and the outdated home fell into disrepair. It was this degree of decay that persuaded the Historic Landmark Fee to approve a demolition allow for the house final week.
Kalan Contreras with the Historic Preservation Workplace advised the commissioners that the demolition proposal was solely thought of “resulting from life security issues.” The property has additionally received code violations associated to its structural integrity and lack of basic upkeep over time. Photographs of the house’s inside submitted to town present that the home is leaning to 1 facet.
The construction is so precarious that Commissioner Ben Heimsath – who by his personal account normally holds “engineers’ experiences with a little bit of suspicion” – admitted that an try to restore the property could be “re-creating it somewhat than restoring it.”
Whereas the commissioners had been pragmatic of their approval of the demolition, additionally they engaged in a broader dialogue about preservation on Rainey Avenue, a neighborhood traditionally related to Austin’s Hispanic inhabitants.
An alternate possibility the fee may have taken was recommending the property for historic designation. The constructing’s age, its presence in a historic district and its clear ties to the neighborhood’s previous may have made it a powerful candidate for landmark standing, however metropolis staffers got here to the conclusion that the “property doesn’t possess a novel location, bodily attribute, or vital function that contributes to the character” of the neighborhood.
When discussing the opportunity of recommending the house for a historic designation, Chair Terri Myers introduced up the difficulty of illustration, saying that, “of greater than 600 historic landmarks in Austin, lower than 20 are related to Hispanic households.”
Commissioner Kevin Koch was sympathetic to preservation issues and even went so far as to say that Rainey Avenue is on the verge of “self-cannibalization” with “the brand new building – between density and corridors and whatnot.”
Finally, Koch pushed the commissioners to approve the demolition allow, saying, “Sooner or later a stand goes to should be made to take care of some form of steadiness of character” within the Rainey Avenue Historic District, however he didn’t really feel as if this dilapidated home was a great beginning place for these efforts.
Commissioners voted to launch the demolition allow with the completion of a documentation bundle – a file of images and a story historical past of the constructing for Austin Historical past Middle archives.
Myers and Commissioner Beth Valenzuela had been the one commissioners who voted towards.
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