Housing Authority: Rosewood Courts redevelopment gets the okay from residents

Rosewood Courts has been in its East Austin location for almost 80 years.

Residents say it’s time for an upgrade.

Alexis Henderson has lived in rosewood courts for 11 years. “I just graduated as a medical assistant and what it does, is it gives me the opportunity to be downtown where I am on the bus route,” said Henderson.

She says her old building which lacks central heating and air, among other things, is starting to get to her and her children. “Our air conditioners have to be in the window. The property is 1939, so it's hard to go in and knock out all the bricks to put the AC inside so we won't have to have units in the window,” said Henderson.

The Housing Authority for the City of Austin is renewing a fight to preserve and redevelop the site. Rosewood Courts is a historic place in Austin. It housed African-Americans once it was built.

Out of the 25 buildings, they plan to preserve 8 of the buildings.

“That would be a full restoration back to the 1939 construction. We would flatten the roofs, we would put in the ornate hardware that was first here on the properties,” said Sylvia Blanco, executive vice-president for the Housing Authority for the City of Austin.

They want to demolish and rebuild the other 17. All units preserved would also be renovated for residents.

“It would be so expensive for us to use the existing buildings to go and knock out the brick walls to make the spaces bigger so it would actually cost us more,” said Blanco.

Historian Dr. Fred McGhee thinks authorities should re-evaluate. But he is fine with appropriate upgrades, such as designing the buildings like passive houses, a green energy efficient movement that started in Germany.

“Preserving the entire complex is the thing we need to be doing. I do not support demolition of anything here because it's all historic. This was international style modernist housing at a time when a population when Austin was about 75,000 people,” said McGhee.

“Unless you stay here and spend the night with us in the summertime there's not really much you can say. To those critics we are preserving eight. We know and love the history, but we are still living here,” said Henderson. Blanco says if the item passes, once construction begins, residents will be assisted in temporary relocation.

This Historic Landmark Commission is slated to take up the topic on February 26.

City council will have the final say once the topic gets passed to them.

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