Upcoming Travis Cty Commissioners Court Dates

Travis County Commissioners Court opened a public comment period on the Palm School draft restrictive covenant legal language through September 20, 2019. Staff received several emailed comments during this period. On the dates listed below, Commissioners Court will discuss or take action related to Palm School as indicated:


  • October 8—receive summary presentation of emailed comments received during public comment period

  • October 22—obtain a final round of public input on the restrictive covenants

  • October 29—take action to approve the restrictive covenants and discuss next steps


Meeting agendas with full backup are available the Friday before the Tuesday Voting Sessions at this link: http://traviscountyclerk.org/eclerk/Content.do?code=Commissioners. The agenda and backup for next Tuesday’s meeting is available now, and the Palm School agenda item is number 16.

As reported by Curbed on 6.5.19 and Austin Business Journal on 8.17.19

The Travis County Commissioners Court voted Tuesday to take measures to protect the historic Palm School building, the Austin American-Statesman reported Wednesday, approving deed restrictions to ensure its ongoing existence and maintenance.

Located on the corner of East Cesar Chavez Street and the I-35 frontage road about a block from the Austin Convention Center, the building has been part of recently reinvigorated Austin City Council conversations about rebuilding the convention center. The city is currently considering a plan that calls for the preservation of the Palm School and incorporation of the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, the Rainey Street historic district, and Waller Creek Park into the renovation.

The Palm School, a former elementary school serving generations of East Austin residents, is back in the headlines as Travis County and Austin officials discuss its future, weighing the interests of preserving the site's cultural heritage and maximizing the value of the surrounding land.

The building, located near I-35 and Cesar Chavez Street, is currently used by the county but will be vacated by 2021 as county departments move elsewhere.  "I believe that a solid path for Travis County to accomplish its goals may very well be to entertain offers from the private sector," Manchester said in the letter to commissioners. "I wish you all the best as you move forward."

There is a movement being led by Waterloo Greenway to Save the Palm School from being sold to outside developers.  Below is a Call to Action from that group.

Travis County's decision will have a BIG impact on our city's future. Send your feedback before September 20!

Dear Waterloo Greenway family,
We need your help!  
As many of you know, Waterloo Greenway Conservancy, together with many community advocates, has been working to save Palm School for our community. This site is deserving of preservation for its nearly 200-year history, having served as a military armory and, most notably, an elementary school to primarily students of color for more than 80 years.

Travis County, which owns the property, has said its draft legal covenants will protect the integrity of the school and its historic relationship with Palm Park. However, with a $53-million appraisal in hand, the County Commissioners Court has stated their intent to sell the property to the highest bidder. 

We’ve reviewed the County’s covenants and Historic Structure Report and feel it is important to share what the potential allowable development from a property sale might look like. The proposed covenants are not specific regarding future building footprint and do not sufficiently protect the integrity of Palm School and its historic connection with Palm Park. With Travis County’s Historic Structure Report recommending new zoning for the site, the covenants would allow the construction of a high-rise tower between Palm Park and Palm School. A diagram of the potential development is illustrated in the graphic below. 

If you feel, as we do, that the sale of this site and new development would significantly diminish this cultural asset and the potential impact of a beautifully connected public park, please send comments to palmschool@traviscountytx.gov through next Friday AND attend the County’s public hearing tentatively planned for Sept. 24 to protest this sale. The hearing will be held at 700 Lavaca Austin.

You’re invited to copy & paste the following message in your email or click the button below. Please forward this to your friends and colleagues as well, encouraging them to speak up.

Save Palm School! Preserve this historic site and maintain it in the public realm to honor its history and culture. As currently allowed, potential new development risks diminishing the possibility of a beautiful, culturally-conscious landmark in downtown Austin. Travis County, we need you to help create an active, welcoming, and family-friendly corner in downtown, connecting with the natural beauty of Palm Park and Waller Creek.

Email Travis County by clicking here:

The site is currently zoned GR-H, which carries a height limitation of 60 feet. The current zoning reflects historic designation due to the site's historical and cultural significance. Such a designation serves to protect, enhance, and preserve Palm School. Recommendations made in the County’s Historic Structure Report call for denser development on the property at a higher intensity than what is currently allowed -- equivalent to CBD zoning -- that could result in a new tower built on site with unlimited height. The graphic at the top of this email illustrates what the County’s covenants and report would ALLOW a developer to build between Palm School and Palm Park.

For more information, please email Melissa Ayala at mayala@waterloogreenway.org or call (512) 541-3520 ext. 101.

Palm School

Send Questions, Comments or Feedback to: raineyinfo@gmail.com

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