To: Jeremy Striffler, AISD Director of Real Estate
From: Dewitt Peart, CEO, Downtown Austin Alliance
We appreciate that you took time to meet with our Place & Mobility Committee last week to discuss the repurposing of Pease Elementary School. While it is disappointing to lose a downtown elementary school, we are encouraged that the Pease Elementary site will continue to remain in the AISD portfolio, and that there is potential for educational and community use of the building.
There are few public use sites of this scale remaining downtown and we believe that the reuse can serve educational purposes while also meeting the needs of our growing downtown community of residents and employees. Both early childhood education and community cultural arts space are needs that we have heard expressed by our downtown community. We are encouraged to hear that input on repurposing has affirmed these needs, and we hope AISD will prioritize a creative public-private partnership(s) as a next step to leverage the best possible use program for the 2+ acre site. We also encourage the use of current data to support decisions that will fill the most critical needs for our downtown community in the process.
We are not recommending one specific theme (or option) at this phase in the process, but suggest rather that the repurposing process continue to explore options that can maximize community outcomes and help achieve the following goals established in the Downtown Austin Vision:
- Create diverse and engaging parks, places and experiences that attract and welcome everyone.
- Grow downtown’s unique and vibrant mixed-use neighborhoods and districts.
- Create a safe, vibrant pedestrian experience that includes ground floor uses that bring life to the surrounding area.
- Make downtown a family-friendly place to live and work.
- Preserve and leverage what is authentically Austin as we grow. To this end, we encourage AISD to leverage the historic landmark status of the building, and the historic nature of the site, including potential Historic Tax Credit eligibility.
We encourage continued discussions with the Austin Economic Development Corporation and other potential partners, as well as more formalized coordination with district partners/neighbors such as Austin Community College, Travis County, State of Texas, Pease Park Conservancy, the Original Austin Neighborhood Association, and the Downtown Austin Alliance.
The future use of this site is important to downtown, and we will continue to encourage the downtown community to participate in these repurposing conversations.
Lastly, it goes without saying that having a downtown that is a family-friendly place to live and work is part of our vision for downtown, and an elementary school is a critical anchor of this vision. While we understand that current demographics and district needs do not support this vision, if the district were willing to re-evaluate the decision at a future time, we would welcome that exploration. Likewise, we encourage AISD to consider options that allow for this flexibility in the future.
Dewitt Peart, President and CEO
If you have thoughts and feelings on how Pease Elementary could best serve the community, please give your input here.