At its Dec. 15, 2011, meeting, Austin City Council approved the purchase of 3.53 acres in Southeast Austin for a future pocket park. The property at 2100 Parker Lane is on the corner of Parker and Windoak Drive, and is shaded by three heritage oak trees. Council recommended the purchase because it could provide a gathering place for residents and visitors at nearby homes, apartments and churches in an area that some consider to be underserved by parks.
The city defines a pocket park as a small area, generally less than two acres, that “offers green space in a location where public green space is limited or not served by any other park. … Pocket parks are incorporated into existing dense residential areas to meet the demand for public green space.”
But the property hasn’t always been open space. In 1963 Austin builder Jack Andrewartha built his home there. With its custom woodwork, cork flooring, Waterford crystal sconces and Italian marble foyer, his 4,500-square-foot Colonial Revival mansion was recognized in a cover story in the National Association of Home Builders’ magazine in 1965, according to an article in the Austin American-Statesman on May 29, 2004. At the time of the Statesman article, the renovated estate featured a guest house, a pool and a spring-fed pond and was on the market for $899,000.
The sellers, who were the estate’s second owners, were approached by several would-be buyers, many of whom wanted to turn the house into a bed-and-breakfast. According to a followup story in the Statesman on July 17, 2005, the owners wanted it to go to someone who would love it as much as they did, and sold it to a buyer who said that he planned to make it his family home. But not long after it sold, it was back on the market.
Times were changing in Austin, and 3.5 acres near downtown attracted developer Michael Hamilton of Servant Builders. In July 2005, just three months after the house sold to its third owner, Hamilton bought the property with the intention of building condominiums. Despite the objections of neighbors, the mansion was torn down, and the land was approved for as much as 20 0r more residential units.
However, the economic downturn prevented the development of the property, and it again went back on the market — it has been for sale for much of the past eight years. Throughout the process, nearby neighborhood association the South River City Citizens has been following along, posting updates on its website and attending city meetings that included discussions of development plans and the possible park.
Though a neighborhood landmark has been lost, the property itself is still beautiful and could become available to all residents in the area to use. Learn more about the city’s approval of the land purchase at the Dec. 15, 2011, City Council meeting here.