Travis County Commissioners Court took no action on a resolution of support for the preservation of the Montopolis Negro School, a historic segregated school in Southeast Austin founded in 1891, at a meeting Tuesday.
Southeast Austin residents have expressed concern with regard to the future development of the property over the last few months.
Developer Austin Stowell of Keep Investment Group/Real Estate, the company that purchased the property, said his intention is to preserve the property at the location but as part of a mixed-use development.
According to the Montopolis Neighborhood Plan, a neighborhood plan created and adopted by community members in September 2001, the site is designated for single-family use on the future land-use map.
“We are working our way through the process at this point,” Stowell said. “We have a plan and would like to continue on with the process with the city of Austin that will ultimately result in the church itself being preserved. We think that we have the mixed-use of office and general retail space available on the site that we would like to develop as well.”
However, community members have expressed interest in developing the property as a whole.
Fred McGhee, local author and a resident in the area, spoke on behalf of many of his fellow citizens in their interest to preserve the property in total to be used as a community park and museum.
“Our neighborhood wants to preserve this property in total and use it for anti-gentrification community development,” McGhee said.
Georgia Steen, a resident in the area and an alumna of the school, felt the need to preserve the property was important for both community members and former students.
“This is not just a piece of real estate,” Steen said. “It is a cultural landmark and it’s important to save sites of African-American heritage, such as the Negro school. I support preserving it as a historic landmark to be used as a museum and community park.”
Commissioner Margaret Gomez, who represents the area, agreed there was historical significance with the property but suggested the developer and community members work together to find common ground.
“I think we need to remember the value of the people that were involved,” Gomez said. “I think we need to meet with everyone and find creative ways of coming together to find a solution."