Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Draft Equity-Based Preservation Plan Released for Community Review

The City of Austin’s Planning Department is asking for the community’s feedback on the newly released draft Equity-Based Preservation Plan. Built on an inclusive, equity-focused, and community-oriented framework, the draft plan recommends policies, programs, and tools that meet historic preservation goals aimed at making Austin a better city for residents and visitors alike. When adopted, the plan will replace the City’s current preservation plan that has been in place since 1981.

The draft plan explores how historic preservation can unlock a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable future for everyone. More than 100 recommendations support 14 goals ranging from recognizing cultural heritage to stabilizing communities to supporting stewardship of community assets. Draft recommendations take a proactive and strategic approach, recommending more community engagement and up-front information-gathering. They propose a range of incentives and tools to ensure that preservation equitably benefits people across the city. And they consider how to better tell Austin’s full, complex story while maintaining a high bar for historic designation.

“This new and improved Equity-Based Preservation Plan will carry us into the future by providing us fresh tools to take a more comprehensive approach to honoring and acknowledging Austin’s rich and complicated past,” said Planning Department Director Lauren Middleton-Pratt. “The draft is built on the vital input of a diverse group of Austinites, and our ongoing community engagement is aimed to ensure the final product will reflect the values, history, and heritage of our entire city.”

 The planning process was initiated by the Historic Landmark Commission. To develop the draft plan, the Commission appointed a diverse 26-member Preservation Plan Working Group comprised of historic preservation professionals, stakeholders from allied fields, and community representatives.

“The process was thorough and intentional,” said Linda Y. Jackson, the Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Huston-Tillotson University and a working group member. “I learned a lot from the participants and appreciated the opportunity to hear different views.”

 Research into best practices from across the nation informed the working group as it drafted the plan. The working group also received feedback from three community focus groups, consulted with City staff from 12 departments, and conducted a community heritage survey in fall 2021. A Technical Assistance Panel organized by the Urban Land Institute provided recommendations on affordability and displacement prevention through the lens of older housing. In total, more than 300 people helped shape the draft.

Austinites are encouraged to explore the plan online at www.PublicInput.com/ATXpresplan or review a printed version at any branch of the Austin Public Library or the Planning Department (1000 E. 11th Street). Community review of the draft will be open through May 31, 2024. 

 A community kickoff event will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 13, at 6:30 p.m. at Huston-Tillotson University’s King-Seabrook Chapel. In dynamic lightning talks, community leaders will highlight Austin’s rich history, cultural heritage, displacement prevention, sustainability, and why historic preservation matters today. All are welcome.

“The draft Equity-Based Preservation Plan has the potential to transform how Austin preserves its diverse heritage,” said Lindsey Derrington, Executive Director of Preservation Austin. “This work is needed now more than ever. We hope many community members review it and speak up about what matters to them—and how we can work together to preserve it.”

Working group member Brita Wallace, a leader of the Austin Infill Coalition, agreed. “We need to expand beyond the traditional preservation groups and into new audiences that haven’t been as involved in preservation,” she said.

Outreach around the draft plan will include City-hosted events, pop-up outreach at community events, and presentations at organizational meetings. Ten community ambassadors and five community organizations are being funded to help engage historically marginalized communities around the draft plan via small-group conversations and targeted events. The community organizations are Anderson Community Development Corporation, Creative Action, East Austin Conservancy, the Austin chapter of Taiwanese American Professionals, and Tomorrow’s Promise Foundation. 


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