Budget pressures could impact Council verdict on San Jacinto warehouse

Picture by Google Maps

Thursday February 24th, 2022 by Kali Bramble

The prospects for preservation of the Nalley-Shear-Bremond warehouse at 301 San Jacinto St. look bleak.

After addressing the case earlier this month, the city council voted on Thursday to postpone the decision to initiate historic zoning. The claim challenges the owner’s intention to demolish the existing warehouse to make way for something new, arguing that the structure retains a degree of historical and architectural significance that qualifies it for historic landmark status. With a valid petition on their side, the decision will require a supermajority of nine votes to override the wishes of the current owners.

“In anticipation of the tax pressure we will encounter in the near future, we can expect much greater property tax control if our warehouse district continues to grow,” the new council member said. from District 4, Chito Vela.

The building, which currently houses Vince Young Steakhouse and Thomas Printworks, was built in 1912 to accommodate the industrial boom ushered in by Austin’s railroad system. It operated for decades as a grocery store under the Bremond family, who were instrumental in developing the city’s early commercial and banking institutions.

Despite what staff members saw as a solid caseCouncil members were unconvinced that preserving the building would benefit the city.

“I sincerely appreciate the work our office of historic preservation is doing and the research they have done on this,” said board member Natasha Harper-Madison, “but I find it difficult to accept their findings. It was pointed out that the Bremond family has a whole neighborhood named after them a few blocks down the road. Frankly, I think we could achieve the same goal of telling the story of the town with something like a plaque .

With the reality of the city’s tight budget fresh in their minds, Council members quickly steered the conversation in a numerical direction. Historic Preservation Officer Elizabeth Brummett acknowledged that in fiscal year 2021, 301 San Jacinto St. offered a total of $355,000 in property taxes in 2021, of which approximately $88,000 was collected by the city .

Although the Department of Housing and Town Planning cannot accurately predict what the post-development site might generate in tax revenue, staff acknowledged that it would certainly be a marked increase. “I’ll settle for a ‘much larger’ estimate,” Vela remarked.

On a more sympathetic note, council member Kathie Tovo, who represents the surrounding central business district, said she had discussed several alternatives to demolition with the owners, with little success. Still, Tovo said the case inspired her to rethink Austin’s existing preservation infrastructure.

“I’ve studied buildings like the Hearst Tower and other similar projects in Chicago, where new tax revenue has been realized while preserving structures that tell the city’s story. … We have been talking for decades about the need for a broader set of tools in this regard, so I intend to introduce a resolution in the coming months that would create a task force to tackle these issues .

Council members Leslie Pool and Mackenzie Kelly expressed support for the effort, as did Mayor Steve Adler.

“Acknowledging that the staff can’t give us a concrete number, I know the tax revenue will be in the millions,” Harper-Madison said of the site’s future development. “It’s extra sauce for our parks, our police, our firefighters, our libraries, our affordable housing fund…not to mention the transit system our ratepayers approved in 2020…if we preserve this building as is in our central business district, I really don’t think we’re maximizing the value of our taxpayers’ investment.

The matter will return for a third and final reading next month.

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