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Travis County is Preparing to Sell Palm School

The fate of Palm School will have a big impact on our city’s future. Please attend the public hearing on Tuesday, October 22 at 1:30 PM at 700 Lavaca and share your feedback.

Over the past few months, Palm School has been in the news as Travis County debates the future of the site. This historic building stands on the corner of Cesar Chavez and IH-35, best known as an elementary school in service to East Austin communities of color for over 80 years. Read about the history of the school here

Currently, Travis County envisions a sale of the Palm School property with over 1/2 of the site designated for new development. As proposed, a private developer would be allowed to construct a large tower between Palm School and Palm Park — we believe that would significantly diminish the potential of a beautiful, culturally-conscious landmark in downtown. 

Attended the school, live nearby, work downtown, or care about Austin history? Help support the preservation of this historic building and expanding Austin’s cultural offerings!

If you cannot attend the public hearing, you’re invited to stay involved by emailing this message to County Commissioners:

Save Palm School! Preserve this historic site and maintain it in the public realm to honor its history and culture. As currently allowed, new development proposed risks diminishing the potential of a beautiful, culturally-conscious landmark in downtown. Travis County, we need you to help create an active, welcoming, and family-friendly corner in downtown, connecting with Austin’s natural beauty at Palm Park.

Why it matters:

  • Palm School functions as a civic landmark with a critical location as a gateway between downtown and East Austin.
  • Future use and development of the Palm School site will greatly impact Palm Park.
  • Palm School and Palm Park were historically connected and should be reconnected.
  • Palm School has significance to the heritage of the community, particularly Mexican-American community, that should be honored and celebrated as part of the future plan.

Waterloo Greenway has engaged and supports a large and diverse group of stakeholders that want to protect the cultural preservation of Palm School and the integrity of Palm Park, including the passage of the May 23 Austin City Council Palm District Plan resolution.


Palm Park is located between 2nd and 3th Streets in downtown, next to the Palm School building — making it an important part of Waterloo Greenway’s efforts to create a 1.5-mile parks system for Austin. Currently in predesign planning, we will transform Palm Park with a new design that provides direct access to Waller Creek, a bike and pedestrian trail, new landscaping, and family-friendly features. 

Imagine what we can create in this part of the city: a vibrant, multi-layered, and diverse experience of people and place that is accessible to the entire city, where our entire community comes together.

By advocating for Palm School, you support Waterloo Greenway — thank you!


Travis County, which owns the property, has said its draft legal covenants will protect the integrity of the school and its historic relationship with Palm Park. However, with a $53-million appraisal in hand, the County Commissioners Court has stated their intent to sell the property to the highest bidder.

We’ve reviewed the County’s covenants and Historic Structure Report and feel it is important to share what the potential allowable development from a property sale might look like. The proposed covenants are not specific regarding future building footprint and do not sufficiently protect the integrity of Palm School and its historic connection with Palm Park. With Travis County’s Historic Structure Report recommending new zoning for the site, the covenants would allow the construction of a high-rise tower between Palm Park and Palm School. A diagram of the potential development is illustrated in the graphic above.

The site is currently zoned GR-H, which carries a height limitation of 60 feet. The current zoning reflects historic designation due to the site’s historical and cultural significance. Such a designation serves to protect, enhance, and preserve Palm School. Recommendations made in the County’s Historic Structure Report call for denser development on the property at a higher intensity than what is currently allowed — equivalent to CBD zoning — that could result in a new tower built on site with unlimited height. The graphic at the top of this email illustrates what the County’s covenants and report would ALLOW a developer to build between Palm School and Palm Park.