New Braunfels community members balance development with preservation

As the city of New Braunfels continues to expand, the face of downtown may change to accommodate an increasing number of residents and visitors.

The New Braunfels Historic Landmark Commission on Jan. 14 heard updated plans from Woolsey Design Build President Eli Woolsey, Vice President Matt Schumann and property owners.

The commission recommended a partial permit of alteration, which allows for the demolition of 207 E. San Antonio St. and the partial demolition of structures connected to the properties at 173 and 189 E. San Antonio St.

Three buildings, located at 173, 189 and 207 E. San Antonio St., have been the topic of discussion as developers seek to add parking and retail space downtown while residents push to preserve the buildings.

According to Amy McWhorter, the city’s historic preservation officer and downtown development coordinator, each of the buildings has been heavily altered since construction.

“They may have had significance at one point in time, but they’re so altered that they no longer convey that story,” McWhorter said at the meeting.

Woolsey Design Build initially applied for a certificate of alteration to demolish the structures in November, but the commission delayed its decision on the buildings until the firm conducted research into the possibility of relocating the traditional German fachwerk-style building, located at 189 E. San Antonio St.

“Structural integrity is of the utmost importance for public buildings,” Woolsey said. “We do have reports from structural engineers who have some concerns regarding these buildings.”

After studying the properties and consulting Edgar Dodson of Dodson House Moving, the firm determined the buildings were likely too fragile to move, Woolsey said at the meeting. Woolsey noted Dodson House Moving quoted $130,000 to lift and move the fachwerk-style structure.

Along with a new two-floor parking structure, the design team originally planned to deconstruct the buildings and reuse materials from the original architecture in new retail and office spaces facing East San Antonio Street, Woolsey said at the meeting.

“There is a large portion of material and timbers that we can use,” Woolsey said. “Deconstructing them would allow us to better preserve the materials than moving the structure.”

Members of the commission and local residents have voiced concerns over deconstructing the buildings and the impact on historical preservation.

McWhorter gave an outline of each property’s history.

The fachwerk home was constructed in the 1850s for early settler Otto Lindner. Like the other properties, the building has been altered throughout its history, and the roof line has been lowered, though the original basement remains intact.

The property at 207 E. San Antonio St. was completed in the late 19th century and was originally a commercial building. Once In a Blue Moon, a boutique and gift shop, occupied the building until its closing in December.

173 E. San Antonio St. was originally built in the late 1920s and first appeared on maps in 1930. It was used as an office building for Landa Industries, McWhorter said. The first public library in New Braunfels was also briefly housed there. In the 1960s, it became Modern Beauty Salon, and the business still operates there today.

“These projects are culturally sensitive to our community,” New Braunfels resident Lauren Roijos-Fitzpatrick told the commission. “History cannot be duplicated.”

Roijos-Fitzpatrick, a professor at The University of Texas at San Antonio, also shared her experience of purchasing and moving a local historic building with her husband. That building, originally located at 750 W. San Antonio St., had previously been scheduled for demolition.

Yvonne Hoffmann, a Realtor with Reliance Residential Realty and a member of the commission, said the preservation of New Braunfels’ historic downtown is important in maintaining the cultural identity of the city.

“This is the core; this is the heart of our city,” Hoffmann said. “In preserving that, that takes us back to preserving the history, the heritage, those landmarks that are there.”

But Hoffmann and other board members also expressed a need for parking and additional retail space in downtown as the city grows.

The commission’s recommendation will go before New Braunfels City Council for consideration.

“We feel like it’s a big win-win for downtown considering all the activity and the businesses that don’t have adequate parking,” Schumann said.

Woolsey and Schumann declined interviews following the meeting as they re-evaluate plans in light of the commission’s decision.


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