How I found a local story about a Graffiti Park in Austin that drove a statewide conversation and crashed the Community Impact Newspaper website

HOPE Outdoor Gallery, also known as Castle Hill and Graffiti Park, will be demolished after a decision by the Austin Historic Landmark Commission.

HOPE Outdoor Gallery, also known as Castle Hill and Graffiti Park, will be demolished after a decision by the Austin Historic Landmark Commission.

News of a quick, seemingly noncontroversial vote during a Monday evening Historic Landmark Commission meeting swept the state of Texas and went on to become one of the most trafficked stories in Community Impact Newspaper history.

How? Well, the devil is in the details.

Although the vote’s result meant the demolition of a beloved Austin art attraction—the HOPE Outdoor Gallery, colloquially known as “Graffiti Park”—the agenda item went entirely unnoticed by other local media outlets—and even some of the appointed commissioners.

Monday night’s Historic Landmark Commission meeting included several postponements and a 15-item consent agenda, or a group of cases voted on and approved at once without discussion or explanation of the vote by commissioners.

As the Austin City Hall Reporter, part of my weekly routine is to run through the meeting agendas, highlighting any items of interest and making calls to understand what actions could occur.

When it came to Monday’s Historic Landmark Commission agenda, I noticed the description for item C. 

NRD-2018-0002 — Offered for Consent Approval
1012 Baylor Street
Council District 9
Proposal: Demolish concrete walls and slabs at Graffiti Park
Applicant: JB Cumby Construction
City Staff: Steve Sadowsky, Historic Preservation Office 974-6454
Staff Recommendation: Release the permit upon completion of a City of Austin Documentation Package.

The words “Graffiti Park” immediately piqued my interest. However, it was not new news to learn the outdoor gallery was going away—coverage for this dates back to late November.

Nonetheless, I published an update story at 4:01 p.m. alerting readers about the site’s pending demolition approval. The story instantly went viral, drawing traffic not normally seen at Community Impact, a print-first monthly news outlet.

The commission voted 8-0 to approve the demolition without a discussion. After updating my story at 10 p.m., traffic increased so drastically that our company website temporarily crashed. The story swept through the state, and outlets from the Houston Chronicle to KVUE cited Community Impact Newspaper’s original story in their coverage.

One commissioner told me after the meeting they did not realize what they were voting on until after it was entered and did not believe the other commissioners were aware of the implications of their votes.

“The devil is in the details,” may be a cliché, but it is our attention to those details that make local journalism so important to communities. Those details—often overlooked by the public, the media and sometimes even by elected officials—are where some of the most important stories are born.

Read the story here.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, USA Today and several other local outlets along the east coast.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended health providers pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine April 13. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
State, federal health authorities recommend pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after 6 rare, severe blood clots

Hub providers in Dallas, Harris and Travis counties have all announced they will follow the recommendations and pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Comal County have increased to 19, up from 13 on April 9. (Warren Brown/Community Impact Newspaper)
Comal County positivity rates pass 5% as area hospitalizations increase

The county has reported 189 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 since April 5, 109 of which are New Braunfels residents.

Work on a new NBISD elementary school campus is to begin this summer. (Warren Brown/Community Impact Newspaper)
Next NBISD elementary school campus to begin construction this summer

The school will eventually replace Carl Schurz and Seele Elementary Schools.

New Braunfels City Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance to restrict residency of convicted sex offenders. (Courtesy city of New Braunfels)
Child safety zones proposed in New Braunfels restrict where sex offenders may live

During an April 12 meeting, City Council voted unanimously to approve the first reading of the ordinance.

Face masks are no longer required in city facilities. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Face coverings no longer mandatory in New Braunfels city facilities

Officials revisited a temporary policy requiring masks to be worn by staff, visitors and customers at New Braunfels city facilities and decided to rescind the policy.

City Council approved fee waivers for the Sophienburg Memorial Association during its April 12 meeting. (Lauren Canterberry/Community Impact Newspaper)
City of New Braunfels waives fees for Sophienburg museum expansion

Due to rising property valuations throughout the city, board members of the nonprofit Sophienburg Memorial Association have requested and received waivers for costs associated with its expansion.

A lack of significant rainfall has local officials preparing to implement stage 2 water restrictions in the New Braunfels area. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Stage 2 water restrictions anticipated for New Braunfels area

Due to a recent rise in temperatures and lack of significant rainfall, officials from New Braunfels Utilities are expecting a shift from stage 1 to stage 2 drought restrictions by the end of April.

Romeo's Pizza held its Georgetown groundbreaking April 6. (Courtesy Romeo's Pizza)
Romeo's Pizza coming to Georgetown; Vacancy Brewing opens in South Austin and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Austin Public Health holds a vaccination clinic at the Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Coronavirus updates from Austin, Travis County; governor bans 'vaccine passports' and more top Central Texas news

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from Central Texas.

The site will offer free PCR testing to the public and will allow city and county officials to focus their efforts on vaccination clinics. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Curative to continue operating drive-thru COVID-19 test site at New Braunfels City Hall

The site will offer free PCR testing to the public and will allow city and county officials to focus their efforts on vaccination clinics.

Early voting runs April 19-27. Election day is May 1. (Courtesy Unsplash)
New Braunfels chamber to host candidates forum ahead of May 1 election

Candidates running in the New Braunfels City Council election will have the opportunity to share about their goals for if they are elected.

A resident at EdenHill Communities receives their second dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. (Lauren Canterberry/Community Impact Newspaper)
Amid the struggle to get vaccinated, these Austin moms have helped over 3,900 people get appointments

The women volunteer their time searching for hard-to-find time slots that often become available in the middle of the night.