Built in 1926 and designated a historic landmark in 2000, the Arch Masonic building is operated by local chapter of Freemasons.
“We want to see the building go up,” said Carl Sizemore, guard for the local chapter, explaining that otherwise the building is likely to fall into further disrepair.
Stone Development and architecture firms Rhode Partners and Clayton & Little proposed a three-story glass atrium and high-rise tower atop the existing building, which will be restored during the construction process.
The vote arrived after a series of postponements and requests from commissioners to ensure the addition aligns with historic preservation standards.
“[City] staff throughout this [process] has been a little bit hesitant, actually not just a little bit—about the precedent that we are setting here in Austin considering that we have a number of low-rise historic landmarks in the downtown area,” Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky told commissioners.
Ultimately, however, staff recommended that commissioners approve the certificate of appropriateness for the project as proposed.
“[The applicants have] taken great pains to preserve the exterior walls and the look of the historic landmark,” Sadowsky said.
Commissioner Kevin Koch called the project “divisive” but voted to support awarding the certificate because of the developer’s commitment to restoring both the exterior and interior of the existing building.
“It’s not ideal, but given the ownership and the desire to maintain this ownership and the location and the value of the property and all these extenuating circumstances, [they] lead me to believe this is a reasonable alteration to the building,” Koch said.
Commissioners said they would continue to maintain a close watch on the project as it progresses.