It’s been ages and we’ve been in a lull due to lack of funds, but I have been so shaken by losses in the neighborhood that I just had to make another push and get this ball rolling again. (Anyone who wants to help, PLEASE come forward!)
Despite it being a rough year for historic preservation in Austin, several neighborhoods such as Hyde Park (the largest Local Historic District with 650 properties, about half the size of our district) still managed to achieve LHD zoning and we want to follow their lead. With the war against tax abatements for historic landmarks continuing with a bleak outlook, including changes to the landmarks program that mean fewer properties can qualify, this makes Local Historic Districts all the more important.
Unfortunately, our neighborhood continues to lose its contributing properties. Since our survey a few years ago, we’ve lost nearly 10 percent of those important structures and have had to re-survey our boundaries. It appears that we have lost enough historic integrity on the north and northwest side of the proposed district that our boundaries need re-drawing and some of us, myself included here on the north end of Newning Avenue, may find ourselves outside of the proposed district now. We will be learning more about these changes at our next meeting. We’ll notify you as soon as we set the date and location.
Our preservation consultants, Casey Gallagher and Emily Reed, are working hard, though, to keep as many of us in the district as possible. On the positive side, some properties are coming into the period of significance (older than 50 years) and some have been restored so we can add those to our list of contributors. Still, the losses are greater than the gains.
We would like to submit our application as a National Register Historic District in November and foresee no problems with achieving that honor as long as we meet deadlines to pay our consultants to research and write our historic narrative. We hope there will be no controversy over this because it imposes no restrictions or requirements for property owners. They are also working on helping to create a starting point for our design standards to pursue a Local Historic District so we can start getting neighborhood input on those.
Besides finding some energetic volunteers, this is where our project needs the most help:
We need roughly $10,000 to meet these goals. If you are doing well and would like to make a big impact, please make a donation. If we had 10 people in the neighborhood motivated enough to give $1,000 each (or 20 who gave $500, etc.), we would have this work done in no time. So far, this hasn’t happened and I am losing heart that anyone will come up with that kind of money. Individual fundraisers have not yielded the large amounts we need to keep going and relieve our regular volunteers.
Also very important, we desperately need help from someone experienced with grant writing. We have found potential funding sources but the deadlines are June 1 and none of us are savvy at this. Can you or anyone you know help?! If so, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will let you know as soon as we schedule our next meeting. I know it’s hard for folks to attend meetings due to our many commitments, but if you want to tell me when is the best time to meet, I am willing to try and accommodate that–anything to get more help! At that meeting, we will update you on the new boundaries and design standards template and hope to get your input on fundraising strategies and our next steps. The slower we go on this, the more expensive the process and the more of our story we lose. So please help!—Melanie Martinez