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City begins cleaning up old N. Austin Home Depot lot that houses hundreds of compost bins

Change is starting to come to a city-owned 20-acre property in North Austin once home to a Home Depot. The lot off I-35 and St. Johns Ave., purchased by the City of Austin more than 10 years ago, was used to store hundreds of city-owned compost bins, but now the Austin Resource and Recovery Center is in the process of removing them for future redevelopment. (CBS Austin)

Change is starting to come to a city-owned 20-acre property in North Austin once home to a Home Depot. The lot off I-35 and St. Johns Ave., purchased by the City of Austin more than 10 years ago, was used to store hundreds of city-owned compost bins, but now the Austin Resource and Recovery Center is in the process of removing them for future redevelopment.

"Right behind the trash bins was our great community called St. John, and I thought that was just so disrespectful," said Thelma Williams, also known as Grandma Wisdom.

For years, she'd been pushing city leaders to do away with the eyesore and repurpose the property. On Saturday, she learned they were already getting to work.

"They were actually moving the bins. In fact, it looked like they'd moved about a thousand already, but I don't know how many was really there," Williams said.

Earlier this year, the City of Austin announced the lot was one of four city-owned properties being considered for redevelopment that would include affordable housing and other amenities.

Austin City Council-member Greg Casar, who represents the neighborhood, sent the following statement to CBS Austin Wednesday:

We've been working closely and intensively with the neighborhood association, and community leadership of this historic community through a grassroots canvassing effort. We've working alongside these leaders to hold block walks to talk to SJ residents at their doors, large community meetings, an online survey, a charette, and smaller house meetings, all with the goal of learning what they'd like to see at that property. Hundreds of people have participated so far. Out of the first part of that process, affordable housing and other amenities was what came to the top of the list for the participants.
In this next year, the City of Austin will be working with experts (civic engineers, structural engineers, etc.), our office, and those community leaders to perform a final analysis what's financially/structurally possible there. This analysis will also ensure that the past bonds are properly defeased, and that the community's new vision can be put on the site. This will be a large focus for our office in the new year.
The community members overwhelmingly supported housing and amenities on this site in our survey- and the Municipal Court, the Police Department, and the City's real estate office already have other plans for permanent courthouse space and police facilities for other locations. There is a legal process for transitioning this property to community uses and housing rather than Court and Police uses. We are diligently following that legal process.

"That was a great early Christmas gift, I think, and it's just about respect to me," Williams said.

She hopes to see affordable housing and a recreational pool for people in the neighborhood.

The city still has several dozen bins to pick up and didn't give a timeline for when they'll be gone, but Williams is happy with the progress already made.

"I'm hoping that in the near future, we'll have something really, really positive and something really, really beautiful for St. John," Williams said.

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