Monday evening, June 27, members of the City of Austin Historic Landmark Commission received their first briefing by the consultants (CasaBella Architects) hired to complete the Norwood feasibility study. CasaBella team member, and historic preservation specialist from Houston, Anna Mod, presented her analysis of the house and recommended demolition. In her opinion the house no longer meets the criteria for historic designation, and is in such degraded condition that the cost of restoration would be prohibitive. HLC members quizzed her on her analysis and were skeptical of her conclusion.
Jim Christianson, former Chairman of the HLC, and the person responsible for motivating SRCC members to create the Norwood Posse, arranged for me to address the HLC for 3 minutes. I presented our case for restoration and cited documentation in support of that objective. HLC members appeared supportive of our proposal. Jim followed up with some critical comments about how city negligence allowed the house to deteriorate.
After the meeting we had an opportunity to speak briefly with Jaime Beaman, CasaBella principal. He, too, noted the high cost of restoration as a huge impediment to restoration. He had a hard time imagining the possibilities of using volunteers and donations to get the job done. That is a natural result of a career built on a traditional, for profit, business model.
The evening concluded with a short discussion with Colleen Theriot, the newest member of the Posse. We first met on Sunday when she indicated a strong interest in the project, and an ability to provide financial help. She affirmed that she, along with her husband Brad, were prepared to jumpstart the restoration with a substantial financial investment.
While details need refinement, this development enables us to craft a realistic proposal to move forward.
The consultants, city staff, and community members, can dream all day about options for the property. But without public funds available to translate those dreams, nothing can happen for a long time. Time is the enemy of the house, and there appears to be little chance that any public funds would be available till a bond election in November 2012.
Even then, there is no guarantee of funding, as voters are concerned about closing pools for kids, laid off teachers, inadequate staffing for 911 call centers, shrinking PARD & library budgets, etc.
A public/private partnership is the most practical, and available remedy, for this long festering problem. Our plan is to work on the details of such a partnership and lobby for approval by the community, the consultants, PARD, HLC and City Council. Today, thanks to the vision and support of Colleen and Brad, we are at the beginning of a new era.
If you have the interest/time to watch the consultants’ presentation to the HLC, and my response, go to item II-2 @