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City Council votes to purchase former site of Montopolis Negro School

Deal with developer could provide opportunity for restoration and museum

An old, farm-type building with a big field in front of it
Former Montopolis Negro School

The Austin City Council bought a solution to what could have been a divisive battle over Eastside gentrification with its vote purchased of land and a building that once housed the Montopolis Negro School, according to KUT-FM’s website, which published the story Thursday.

On Thursday, the Council voted to authorizing the city to negotiate the purchase of the property from KEEP Investment Group/Real Estate in the face of growing opposition to the developer’s plans for the property, KUT reported. The city has tentative plans to restore and maintain the school as a museum, according to the story.

The 1.8-acre tract at 500 Montopolis Drive is the former site—and possibly the only one with a remaining structure—of one of the 42 “country schools” built in the segregated county for African-American children from 1935 to 1962.

The Planning Commission voted last month to recommend historic zoning for the property after the Historic Landmark Commission failed to garner enough votes to make that recommendation. Stowell, who purchased it in 2015, had obtained a demolition permit for the building that once housed the school, which would have been less likely to be approved if the property were landmarked.

The developer told Curbed Austin in December that, because title reports don’t always include complete deed information, he did not know what the building had been used for prior to the 1960s and that, once he was informed of its history, he changed his focus from demolishing the building to moving it and restoring it.

According to KUT, Stowell initially planned to tear down the building and build a community of single-family homes. By the time the matter reached the Planning Commission on Sept. 14, however, The Austin Chronicle was reporting that Stowell had applied for a mixed-use, general retail permit.

According to KUT, the Council did not designate where funding would come from, but it discussed the possibility of using hotel tax revenue for the purchase.

After Demolition Plans Are Scrapped, Segregation-Era School Could Become Museum [KUT]