Tension high during public meeting on Montopolis School

The city of Austin's Zoning and Planning Department held a public meeting to discuss plans for the Montopolis School for Negro Children Wednesday.

The Montopolis neighborhood has a rich history and the Montopolis School for Negro Children is a part of it. It served as a school for black children from 1935-1962 in its current location.

"Our history isn't the history of the elites. Our history is more of the common working class people. That's what this school commemorates," said archeologist Dr. Fred McGhee. "It commemorates the history of segregation in education in America."

Developer Austin Stowell, owner of Keep Investment Group, has bought the land where the school sits and has applied to designate the land as mixed use/commercial development. He has a demolition permit which he said he will not use. He said he will preserve the building and possibly use it commercially. In addition, he may build homes and offices around it, but for some it's not what the building should be used for.

"We would like it to be preserved as a park and museum. We would like heritage and preservation based development," said McGhee.

Inside the Planning and Zoning meeting Wednesday, several residents complained, saying they don't want the school to be used commercially.  Stowell declined speaking to FOX 7 or the crowd in the meeting saying he felt he was being attacked by the crowd.

Clifton Griffin remembers his times at the Montopolis School very well.

"It's the first school I attended. I have fond memories," said Griffin.

Several more steps will need to be taken before a final decision is made and either way members of this neighborhood continue to express their anger toward what this plot of land could become.

The next step, it will go to the Landmark Commission, the Planning commission, and it is City Council who will have the ultimate decision.

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