The Austin Chronicle

Downtown Puzzle: HOT History

Projects under consideration for the historic preservation “funding bucket”

By Michael King, September 22, 2017, News

Another aspect of the Downtown Puzzle specifically targets "historic preservation," e.g., historic sites or potential tourist destinations, both broadly allowed under the state hotel occupancy tax legislation, although city officials sometimes differ over the precise legal parameters of the spending. Last month, Council created a historic preservation "funding bucket" – to be reallocated from the current distribution of HOT revenues, prior to any increase (the contemplated $11 million was later adjusted to $8.6 million) – in part to maintain the viability of the "Puzzle" proposal. This was specifically intended for historic preservation, although exactly which projects would fall under that rubric has been left to future discussions. Projects under consideration include:

• Mexican American Cultural Center: The full master plan for the MACC is in development, but without dedicated funding for implementation and construction.

• Palm School: The former Palm Elementary School, at I-35 & Cesar Chavez, is currently owned by Travis County (used for county offices scheduled for relocation). More notable for its history than its much-altered architecture, and sitting on valuable land, it would have to be purchased by the city for potential preservation.

• Miscellaneous: Council members have circulated various lists of historic sites worthy of funding, ranging from museums to conservation funds to parks. Prominent mentions include: former Montopolis Negro School (privately owned, and contemplated for development); Oakwood Cemetery (unfunded renovations); Tejano Walking Trail (of historic sites); Barton Springs Bathhouse, Austin History Center ...

That's only a brief selection, and anticipates a HOT funding stream that is substantial but not bottomless. How fast the goose's golden eggs would be exhausted won't be apparent for a while.

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