Austin mansion could become boutique hotel
After years of speculation about the future of the Perry Mansion north of the University of Texas campus, a pivotal decision about its fate will be made at the Nov. 12 Austin Planning Commission meeting.
That’s when the city advisory board will decide whether to recommend that the Austin City Council approve a rezoning of the historic property at 4100 Red River St.
“We think a small luxury hotel is consistent with the character of the estate,” said owner and developer Clark Lyda.
Though the proposed zoning includes some technical distinctions, essentially it is a change from civic uses to mixed use development with several restrictions that would prevent it from being anything other than a small boutique hotel with a residence on the western edge of the property.
City staff recommend approval of the plan, but some neighbors don’t want to see any commercial development on the 10-acre site, which is across the street from the Hancock Center, a neighborhood shopping center.
In a letter dated Sept. 2, 2013, the Hancock Neighborhood Association reported to the planning staff that a vote of its membership strongly opposed the rezoning by a vote of 97 against, 20 for and one abstention. The Central Austin Neighborhood Planning and Advisory Committee decided not to take a stand on the proposed redevelopment.
Lyda expects opposition at the planning commission meeting, but whatever the outcome, he plans to carry on with what has become a labor of love.
“The opposition presumes we want to build a Holiday Inn Express, but if there is an analogy of what we want to do it would be like the Hotel Saint Cecilia,” Lyda said.
The Hotel Saint Cecilia is a nationally acclaimed boutique hotel in South Austin.
“We have access to capital,” Lyda said.
The boutique hotel at the Perry Mansion would have 55 rooms and provide a picturesque venue for weddings and other special events.
“For me there is such romance at this place. When you’re sitting here you can forget that you’re in the middle of the city. It’s an oasis,” Lyda said.
The Perry Mansion was built in 1928 by Edgar Perry, a cotton baron. In 1944 Perry and his wife Lutie moved downtown and sold the estate. The property was redeveloped into St. Mary’s Academy and a convent and chapel were added. Over the years other schools have operated the site, but the upkeep was enormous. When Lyda purchased the estate in March 2010 — he’s not saying how much he paid — the property was in serious decline, though it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Since then Lyda has spent about $1.5 million restoring the gardens and other features of the 11,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style mansion, but he’s barely scratched the surface of what needs to be done.
“What this property needs is an economically sustainable mission so that it can be maintained and appreciated,” Lyda said. “We know change is difficult but we’re not going to go away.”
Staff Writer-Austin Business Journal