Eureka Holdings to begin repairing I.Q. Hurdle House
Thursday, May 23, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns
After a surprising turn of events last month brought the I.Q. Hurdle House from a demolition-by-neglect case to a Certificate of Appropriateness approval for maintenance and repairs, the Historic Landmark Commission expressed enthusiasm that the fate of the property was looking brighter.
One month later, however, and that enthusiasm has melted into uncertainty as photos show unsecured windows and no sign of any restoration work.
“I don’t understand why it hasn’t been done,” Commissioner Blake Tollett said at the May 20 meeting of the commission. “I don’t hear an explanation why the windows aren’t boarded up today.”
Dallas-based Eureka Holdings – under the name Poisonous Poinsettia – bought the property in 2016. Pam Madere, who was representing the property owner at the meeting, explained that the holding company was hiring the appropriate parties to begin the stabilization and future preservation of the home. She told commissioners that so far the company had hired Ben Wayne Construction for construction and Rebecca Leonard from Lionheart as the landscape architect.
“We’re also in the process of interviewing and locating an architect to help us through the process,” she said.
A Certificate of Appropriateness does not require a future preservation plan to be in place. The scope of work for the I.Q. Hurdle house includes securing the house, repairing or replacing any rotted wood, painting the house in an appropriate color and inspecting the roof to repair any damage.
Preservation Austin’s Caroline Wright, who came to the commission to speak in favor of approving the Certificate of Appropriateness, noted that while Preservation Austin was in favor of approving its initial stabilization plan, “the information presented for the Certificate of Appropriateness is a few simple bullet points that doesn’t seem to be actually prepared by someone who understands historic buildings.” She said Preservation Austin’s “significant level of concern” is compounded by the fact that “the building has been owned by the same entity for three years and they have done literally nothing to it, which has led to its current deterioration.”
Several other community members, including Greg Smith, president and CEO of the Austin Revitalization Authority, and members of the Organization of Central East Austin Neighborhoods, expressed similar concerns about the length of time it has taken for Eureka to address the needs of the deteriorating I.Q. Hurdle House and the lack of a timeline for the current stabilization proposal.
Madere told the Austin Monitor that “the community engagement process on this particular house has been going on for an extended period of time” and that the looming demolition-by-neglect case did not kick-start the property owner’s preservation activities.
“We want what we do now to fit in with the long-term preservation,” she said.
Even though Madere assured the commissioners that “we understand and respect the importance of the I.Q. Hurdle home,” commissioners remained hesitant about the lack of timeline in the approach.
Commissioner Kevin Koch said that while he appreciated the need for caution “and not just sending out anyone with a hammer and nails,” the maintenance requirements were straightforward enough that they could be completed by next month. He suggested to the commission that if in four weeks’ time the repairs have not been completed, the commissioners consider reopening the demolition-by-neglect case. “I think it will be the only tool at our disposal,” he said. The commission has no authority to impose timelines on a Certificate of Appropriateness.
The commission voted unanimously to approve the Certificate of Appropriateness. Following that vote, they voted unanimously to place the case on the commission’s agenda next month for a progress report. Commissioners Emily Reed, Witt Featherston, Ben Heimsath and Emily Hibbs were absent.
As for securing the house, Madere said, “To me, I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t be done in a week’s time.”