The debris from Austin's downtown bathrooms is removed after the building was torn down early Tuesday morning. — Eric Johnson/

Archived Story

City flushes downtown bathrooms

Published 10:50am Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The longstanding downtown bathrooms have been removed.

Workers tore down the out-of-service public restrooms Tuesday morning following a scheduled demolition planned in the city’s 2012 budget. Originally scheduled for this fall, the demolition was delayed as the Austin City Council reevaluated the decision following a request to open the restrooms back up. They have been closed since a January 2009 fire ravaged downtown Austin.

According to City Engineer Jon Erichson, performing necessary repairs on the existing bathrooms and paying to keep them open and maintained for the next year would have added another $25,000 to the 2013 budget. The council voted not to include it, leaving the bathrooms to be demolished as planned.

In the Capital Improvement Plan, $20,000 has been set aside for asbestos abatement, demolition and restoration work on the site. Because the year is nearing its end, the costs for restoration will likely be carried over to 2013, according to a memo from Assistant Engineer Steven Lang to the mayor and City Council.

At an Oct. 15 meeting, the City Council voted 6-1 with Marian Clennon dissenting to award a bid of $1,990 to H&L Brothers Inc. H&L was the firm with the lowest bid to have the restrooms removed.

Council Member Brian McAlister said at an Aug. 20 council meeting that the bathrooms have amassed more than their fair share of issues since being built about 40 years ago.

“It’s never been a draw for the downtown area,” McAlister said. “They’ve been a problem all that time.”

Over the years, the bathrooms have been victim to vandalism and maintenance issues, he said.

They were originally put in as part of a project to establish a mall center in that area of downtown in the early 1970s.

“It was kind of a spruce-up downtown thing,” McAlister said.

Council Member Judy Enright pushed to save the restrooms. Too many businesses close early in the evening, she said, and people need somewhere to use the restrooms downtown.

Marian Clennon agreed, saying it was a necessary part of getting visitors from out of town to explore Austin’s downtown.

“Something as small as having public bathrooms is a big deal,” she said.

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