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Should the Comal Food Store building be landmarked?

The city’s historic commission thinks so

Old one-story wooden building painted white with red skirting and trim.
Comal Food Store, built in 1922
Andrea Calo

Long an informal landmark in its East Austin neighborhood, the former Comal Food Store building could soon receive an official designation as a historic site from the city, according to a Thursday Austin Monitor story.

Built in 1922, the one-story, wooden building at 220 Comal Street was until a few years ago home to the corner store (as it had been more or less since it was built)—a neighborhood fixture and at times an essential resource for people who lived and worked in the area, now called East Cesar Chavez.

The shuttered store is located two blocks from the Plaza Saltillo rail station and the new, mixed-use Saltillo development that starts just west of the station. The Travis County Appraisal District put the property’s current value at $1.39 million.

As it has been wont to do lately, the commission voted in May to initiate the historic zoning process rather than endorse the demolition permit. On Monday, after a couple of postponements, it voted unanimously to recommend landmark designation for the building—now named the Tuke-Lyon Grocery Store after two families that owned and operated the store. Preserving a 25-foot buffer around the building, called for by city preservation staff, was also recommended.

Speaking on behalf of property owner Comal Koalas Properties, project architect Ponciano Morales said that the permit “was misrepresented on the initial meeting” and the project was never meant to be a complete demolition. He said owners wanted to restore and update the building.

Meeting backup documents, however, state that the “applicant has filed for a partial demolition permit, but the permit contemplates demolition of all four existing walls and the construction of a new building on the same footprint.”

Morales said that the owner will now perform only the repairs and upgrades necessary to make the building code-compliant.