Historic house in West Campus will possibly be relocated for new student housing

Bharath Lavendra

Developers are attempting to relocate a historical house in West Campus to make way for more student housing but face opposition from a historical preservation group.

The Dabney-Horne house, located at 507 W. 23rd St. behind the University Co-Op parking garage, was designated as a historic site by the City of Austin in 1992 and is also protected by a restrictive covenant agreement. This agreement prevents any owner of the house, even future, from moving the house to a
new location.

David Kanne, owner of the Dabney-Horne house and broker at Austin City Realty, which has an office inside the house, is selling the site to developers Johnson Trube and Associates. He applied to relocate the house so the future owners could build a new apartment building. Kanne said he was not surprised the project faced pushback.

“We’re following all City staff recommendations on this,” Kanne said. “This change would increase affordable housing in the area, create more beds for students, create more historical sites and make the area safer with less traffic.”

The new site for the house is 901 Shoal Cliff Court, next to the former residence of late UT track coach Clyde Littlefield, which is also being considered for designation as a historic site.

The main opponent of the relocation is Preservation Austin, a nonprofit organization aimed at preserving the architectural and cultural heritage of the Austin area, according to its website.

Alyson McGee, president of the board of directors at Preservation Austin, said lifting the covenant agreement would set a bad precedent for similar cases.

“A covenant restriction agreement is between the property owner and another party, in this case the City,” McGee said. “It doesn’t matter if the property is sold and passes down to new owners. The covenant agreement should be respected to preserve the historical value of the house and site.”

Kathie Tovo, City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem, said she will weigh the benefits of the project for students and residents against moving the house and removing this site’s historical designation, when the council discusses the issue today.

“Regardless of what happens, I’m going to argue that this should be seen as an isolated case,” Tovo said. “It’s important that they’re building student housing. We need more housing, but … it’s important to preserve pieces of historical and cultural landscape as well.”