TABLE OF CONTENTS
Austin (Tex.). Urban Renewal Agency Board of Commissioners Records
An Inventory of the Collection
The United States Congress passed the Housing Act of 1949 with one of the main elements being providing federal financing for slum clearance programs associated with urban renewal projects in American cities.
In 1954 the Austin City Council started exploring the idea of urban renewal by creating the Greater East Austin Development Committee to study the needs of the East Austin community and the housing conditions in an area bound by East 19th Street (Martin Luther King Boulevard), Airport Boulevard, Springdale Road, the Colorado River (Lady Bird Lake) and East Avenue (I-35). It was through this Committee that the objectives of the Urban Renewal Program were formulated. The next step was the creation of a City of Austin Urban Renewal Department, which had as its first project the preparation of an application for funds to partially finance a feasibility survey of a project area called Thomas Jefferson Heights (defined as East Avenue to Chicon Street, East 12th Street to East 7th Street) as recommended by the Greater East Austin Development Committee. The purpose of the study was to determine the extent of substandard housing and discover proper and feasible means of accomplishing standard conditions.
Soon after the creation of the Urban Renewal Department citizens questioned the legality of the program; and in May of 1957, the Texas Legislature passed a bill authorizing urban renewal only after voter approval through referendum. On December 5, 1959, voters approved urban renewal, but citizens again contested the legality and the fate of the program was tied up in litigation for three years. It was eventually determined that the election was legal and urban renewal could proceed in Austin. The Austin City Council and the Federal Government entered into a novation agreement and the Urban Renewal Department was changed to the Urban Renewal Agency and this new entity was no longer under the jurisdiction of the City of Austin. The Austin City Council, according to State and Federal laws, named a Board of Commissioners to direct the agency's program and to act as a policy making body. The direction of the program was still determined by City Council. The first organizational meeting for the Urban Renewal Agency was held on July 23, 1962.
The pilot urban renewal project became known as Kealing Urban Renewal Project (June 1964) which comprised a portion of the Thomas Jefferson Heights project area. This project was followed by the Glen Oaks Project (June 1967), Brackenridge Project (November 1968) and University East Project (November 1968). The Blackshear Project faced opposition from the Blackshear Resident Organization and the Urban Renewal Agency Board ultimately recommended in 1969 that City Council abandon the project. In December of 1969 City Council approved the Blackshear area as a Neighborhood Development Project (NDP), an annually funded redevelopment program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Blackshear NDP, as well as the proposed St. Johns Project, were abandoned in 1973 because of funding cutbacks in United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Austin City Council decided to use remaining funds to complete the Brackenridge Project.
Starting in the mid-1970s Agency started to downsize because of lack of funding from the federal urban renewal program, but continued to operate using funding from the Community Development Act. The Urban Renewal Agency asked for approval to close out all the major projects in late 1977 and continued working on housing rehabilitation for low income residents through grants and loans on a case by case basis. The Agency continues to operate, on a much smaller scale, on redevelopment projects including a plan to redevelop the East 11th and 12th Streets commercial corridor.
Currently (2015), in accordance with Chapter 374 of the Texas Local Government Code (Urban Renewal in Municipalities), the Board of Commissioners of the Urban Renewal Agency, who are appointed by the Mayor with the consent of the Council, primary responsibility is to oversee the implementation and compliance of approved Urban Renewal Plans that are adopted by the Austin City Council. An Urban Renewal Plan's primary purpose is to eliminate slum and blighting influence within a designated area of the city. The Urban Renewal Board works with the City of Austin Neighborhood Housing and Community Development.
The collection consists of Urban Renewal Agency Board of Commissioners meeting agendas, minutes and monthly reports dating from its organization in 1962 to 1980 and work plans and annual reports dating from 2000 to 2007. The Meeting Agendas and Minutes series (1962-1980) documents the beginning of the agency and all of the urban renewal projects undertaken from 1962 through the 1970s. Included is the special organizational meeting of the Urban Renewal Agency held on July 23, 1962 to officially organize the Agency and for the purpose of electing officers of the Agency. Most of the monthly meeting minutes include discussion on agency bills/finances and correspondence, highlights of the Executive Director's report, votes on resolutions, reports about the various projects including status of appraisals, negotiations with homeowners, sales of lots, summaries and transcripts of question and answer sessions with individuals affected by the urban renewal projects.
Attached to some of the agendas from 1963 to 1965 are monthly reports that document agency costs (salaries, travel, overhead, contract services); negotiations (properties acquired with owner and address); relocations (block/parcel number, owner/tenant, relocated from/to by address); parcels recommended for condemnation (parcel number, address, name); rehabilitation (parcel, address, name, owner/tenant); project costs; correspondence summary; Executive Director's Report; and correspondence from the federal government. The 1960s minutes highlight the decision making process around the five urban renewal projects being overseen by the Agency. Meeting minutes from May to December 1965 are missing.
The 1968 meeting minutes discuss the Neighborhood Development Program (NDP) signed into the 1968 Housing Act and how it could work in Austin. The 1971 meeting minutes include extensive discussion of the Blackshear Neighborhood Development Program and the lawsuit brought by the Blackshear Residents Organization. Also of special interest are the meeting minutes from the April 3, 1973 regular board meeting that details the Agency's plans in light of the Department of Housing and Urban Development funding cutbacks including reactions from the Blackshear Project residents. Beginning in 1974 the minutes highlight the financial struggles of the Agency once funding from the federal government ceased. Discussion of the Symphony Square development and rehabilitation of housing in Clarksville as well as the Housing Rehabilitation Program for low income residents as a whole are also evident in the 1970s through 1980 meeting minutes. Once the Housing Rehabilitation Program for individual residences is up and running the minutes document requests for rehabilitation grants and loans and bids for work from local architects and contractors.
Minutes for meetings held between January 1979 and September 1979 are missing. Meeting minutes for meetings held in Fiscal Year 1979 through 1980 (October 1979-September 1980) are for the Austin Redevelopment Authority Board of Commissioners. Several of the Board members are the same as the Urban Renewal Agency Board so it is assumed that these minutes are for the Urban Renewal Agency Board of Commissioners DBA (doing business as) the Austin Redevelopment Authority. The minutes document the Housing Rehabilitation Program and the Historical Revolving Fund for historic structures.
The Work Plans and Annual Reports series contains work plans and annual reports dated 2000 to 2007 that were filed with the City of Austin Office of the City Clerk as required by Austin City Code 2-1-46. These materials document the significant projects accomplished by the Committee as well as set goals for the future.
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Restrictions on Use
The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
Austin (Tex.). Urban Renewal Board of Commissioners Records (AR.2002.037). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/2002/091 (COA records transfer)
Donation Date: 2002
Finding aid arranged and encoded by Molly Hults in 2015.