School eyes a safer campusPublished 10:13am Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Pacelli hopes to take control of Third Avenue, block off street
Pacelli Catholic Schools is looking to solve a few problems by taking control of the road that separates its two schools.
Pacelli officials are asking the city of Austin to vacate Third Avenue Northwest between Fourth and Fifth Streets. In doing so, Pacelli and St. Augustine Church officials hope to cut down safety hazards in the area.
“This is an antiquated and dangerous corner,” Pacelli President Jim Hamburge said of the Fourth Street and Third Avenue Northwest intersection, which lines up crooked. “The intersection is not designed in a manner that’s safe for cars or for pedestrians.”
The Austin City Council reviewed the vacation request two weeks ago and set a public hearing on the issue for its April 7 public meeting.
Pacelli parents, volunteers and officials came up with the vacation, meaning to make the public road private, during its 100th anniversary celebration last year when residents spoke of what they hoped for the Catholic school’s next 100 years. Pacelli’s recent $3 million fundraising campaign also gives school officials leeway to think of a Pacelli campus, though Hamburge notes most of the money involved will go to school infrastructure improvements such as boiler replacements and electric work.
Some informal talks with the city revealed an opportunity to vacate the street, and Pacelli submitted a request last month.
The vacation presents an opportunity for Pacelli staff and parents to create a school campus which would be safer for K-12 students who go between Pacelli Elementary School and Pacelli High School.
“All those kids go back and forth every day,” Hamburge said.
Mayor Tom Stiehm said the issue would likely gain city support.
“It’s a good move,” he said. “It’s good for the safety of the kids.”
Hamburge said school officials haven’t started work on designing a campus for the school, though the school would close off Third Avenue Northwest with sidewalk and curb if the city approves the vacation. Pacelli officials plan to move the elementary playground west, closer to the school, to free up space for handicapped parking at St. Augustine Church regardless of the city’s decision.
The school commissioned several conceptual designs for a potential campus, but Hamburge said the Catholic school won’t move forward with more plans until the city vacates the street.