Travis County Commissioners Court discussed potential decisions about the fate of the Montopolis Negro School, a historic segregated school in Austin that was first established around 1891, at a meeting Tuesday.
A local developer purchased the property on which the school sits with the intention of developing it as a single-family project. Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt explained the letter the court is considering requests a delay so the Commissioners Court can provide input in the process since the county owned the building from 1935-1952.
Local author Fred McGhee, who wrote a book about Austin’s Montopolis neighborhood, has been asking commissioners to help preserve the site. His goal is to have Austin City Council initiate historic zoning for the property and allocate funding and resources toward preserving the site as a park and museum, he said Dec. 20 at a Commissioners Court meeting.
Austin Stowell, broker/owner of commercial real estate firm Keep Real Estate, told commissioners the company purchased the property in March 2014.
Stowell said he is willing to try to work with the community to come up with a way to preserve the site, and noted he currently does not plan to sell or demolish the school structure. Stowell asked the county to reconsider getting involved with the project.
Community members had an opportunity in 2002 to designate the site as civic as part of the city of Austin's neighborhood planning process, but it is designated for single-family use on the future land-use map in the Montopolis neighborhood plan instead, Stowell said during the meeting.
Commissioner Jeff Travillion, who was elected Nov. 8 to fill retiring Commissioner Ron Davis’s seat, said he wants to take the lead on working with Stowell to preserve the site while progressing with his project.
“It shouldn’t be delayed forever,” Stowell said. “I think I have a resolution that keeps the structure [intact],” he said.
The item will come back to the court on a future agenda, Eckhardt said.
The Montopolis Negro School, a historic segregated school campus in Travis County, is located at 500 Montopolis Drive in Austin.[/caption]