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The QueQue

QueQue: H-E-B expanding downtown, Fear of Southtown loafing (times infinity), ICMA nods at SA, Casa Maldonado not so wretched?

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After surveying more than 2,000 local governments in the United States, the ICMA selected the Alamo City as one of nine communities with progressive energy lessons for the rest of the nation. Included in the city profile in Breaking New Ground: Promoting Environmental and Energy Programs in Local Government are our efforts at reducing energy use through home weatherization outreach, energy rebates tied to tree planting, and investment in solar energy. Although we’re listed as the “only major city in the United States without a light rail or commuter rail system,” the authors of the study praised our growing investment in bicycle lanes and creation of a Bicycle Master Plan for the city.

 Casa Maldonado not so wretched?

Last month, when council unanimously cleared way for demolishing the now-famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) Pink Building, Mayor Julián Castro couched his support in the expectation that the Avenida Guadalupe Association, who owns the building, alter their plan to further accommodate the wishes of groups determined to save the crumbling structure.

Now a small group, handpicked by the Avenida, is set for a marathon planning session Wednesday to finalize the designs for Avenida’s Promesa Project — Avenida’s planned 21,000 square-foot workforce training center and commercial office space. A total of 11 representatives get to vote on the final design for Wednesday’s meeting, two of which are from the Westside Historic Preservation group. Even though preservationists feel shorted by only getting two seats at the table (and repeatedly called Wednesday’s session a “charade”), they’re going into the meeting with ammunition they wish they’d had at the last council session, when their plans to save the building were all but shot down. Through an emergency grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the group commissioned an independent structural report on the building earlier this month — crucial, they say, because Ramirez and other Avenida representatives had repeatedly pointed to a report the Avenida commissioned in December saying repairs to the derelict building weren’t “structurally feasible.”

An analysis of structural engineer Patrick Sparks’ report suggests the total fix-up cost would run only $254,550. For much of the past six months, Avenida has said bringing the building up to code was either impossible or much too costly — floating estimates as high as $800,000 before council.

When reached by phone Tuesday, Gabriel Velasquez, an Avenida board member, suggested Sparks’ recommendations would only take the building to “stabilization,” not ready it for retail, which doesn’t jibe with the report’s plain recognition of “a plan to develop this property into retail space along with Class A office buildings to be built on the adjacent lots.” Still, Velazquez said the Avenida has “gone beyond the call of duty” with every step in the debate over the Pink Building’s fate, and that Wednesday’s meeting is meant to adhere to the mayor’s wishes to come up with an altered plan. “It’s going to be a session that looks at the Avenida’s proposal for that building and then looks at what can be done [to change it],” Velazquez said. “‘Proposal’ maybe isn’t the right word. I mean, it is our building.” •

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