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Welcome to our website! We’re on a mission to save Austin’s historic Norwood House, a 1922 Arts & Crafts treasure on the shores of Lady Bird Lake in Austin, TX. This special bungalow has been under threat for years, but it has recently been stabilized. It's now READY to be restored and repurposed to serve the people in a taxpayer-friendly way. You’re in the right place to find out all about the house and how you can help.

Thanks for visiting, and please be in touch!

Our Mission

The Mission of the Norwood Park Foundation is to restore the Norwood House to its historic exterior appearance, rehabilitate the surrounding historic grounds and gardens, and repurpose the property to serve the people of Austin as a premier, nonprofit and self-sustaining rental venue and community meeting space.

Our Purpose

Located on City parkland, Austin's historic Norwood House is a public park asset, with a stunning view that could command substantial rental revenue for the taxpayers if the house was operating. But with lack of vision in past decades, and municipal budgets strained, the investment required to position Norwood to earn its own keep has not been put forth.

The nonprofit Norwood Park Foundation was formed because there is no money in the budget of the city's Parks & Recreation Department - now or in the foreseeable future - to restore and maintain this remarkable but long-neglected property. Since the will to save Norwood has been strongly established, and since the needs of the deteriorated house have been urgent, we have joined with the City of Austin in a public/private partnership to:

  1. restore the house and grounds,
  2. operate the property in a revenue-generating, self-sustaining fashion, and
  3. ensure its future protection.

In this way, we will save the Norwood House and its beautiful site while modeling a citizen-initiated, volunteer-based civic project that promotes an even greater mission to preserve our town’s original, special places. The end result: a natural and cultural treasure..returned to the people of Austin, at minimal cost to the taxpayer.

Contact

Norwood Park Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 5682
Austin TX 78763-5682

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The Project

Introduction

Hey Austinites, did you know you own a charming 1920s Oriental-influenced, California Craftsman bungalow..on a hill, on a cliff, overlooking Lady Bird Lake? Out the back door is one of the most spectacular views in Austin, and it’s right in town with a great location. Wow! You’d like a key so you can get in and enjoy the place, right?

The problem is, it’s not so charming anymore. In fact, you haven’t been taking care of it over the decades, and - until recently - it was literally falling apart. What’s worse, even if you want to jump right on it and fix the place up immediately, a complex set of circumstances prevents you from doing so.

That, in a nutshell, is the Norwood project. If you’re a tax-paying resident of Austin, you’ve got a stake here - and an opportunity. We sincerely hope you will join us in this “people’s project” of restoring a small but very precious jewel to Austin’s crown.

At a Glance

DON'T WANT TO READ ALL THE EXTREMELY
FASCINATING TEXT ABOUT HISTORY & BUNGALOWS??


Check out our Mission & Purpose in the left
column, then peruse some of the pics & captions
on the
Images page. You'll get a pretty good idea
of the project in a short amount of time.

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THIS PAGE IS PROVIDED FOR THE MEDIA AND OTHERS WHO DESIRE A THOROUGH UNDERSTANDING OF HOW THE PROJECT EVOLVED.  CONTINUE READING FOR DETAILED INFORMATION.

Background

Ollie and Calie Norwood built the Norwood House in 1922. As was customary at the time, they named their home, calling it “Norcliff”. The property itself was known as the Norwood Estate and included such wonders as a stone “teahouse” gazebo with a commanding view of the Colorado River, a greenhouse where the family grew tomatoes hydroponically, beautiful terraced gardens, and an enormous spring-fed swimming pool. Many Austinites admired and visited the estate, picnicked in the pecan groves, and even took swimming lessons from Mrs. Norwood.

Much later on, a new generation would sneak onto the property after listening to live music at the Armadillo World Headquarters, and skinny-dip in the amazing geothermal pool. The bungalow itself was a fixture of Travis Heights for decades and was beloved not only for its unique and charming architecture, but also as a prominent icon that reflected the historic Arts & Crafts character of the neighborhood.

Enough people knew and loved Norcliff by the 1950s that the scene was set for future threats to the home’s well-being to be met with resistance.

Struggles begin

The sad odyssey of the Norwood House started after Ollie and Calie passed away. Not surprisingly, the property went through a succession of battles pitting condo developers who lusted after the incredible site, against neighbors who staunchly defended the house and the integrity of the original estate. In 1984 one commercial buyer got so far as to close on the property and hastily move the bungalow off its piers - stripping the cladding and plopping it unceremoniously a few hundred feet away next to Riverside Drive - before going bust itself in one of that decade’s economic downturns.

Norcliff would steadily decline, off its foundation and partially dismantled, for the next 15 years.

Hard times continue

Because of its marvelous site, the City wisely bought the Norwood Estate in 1985 for use as public parkland. Unfortunately, no funds were designated at that time to develop the tract. Since the house was now a public asset, and public/private partnerships to support public parks were not yet in vogue, restoration by private owners was out of the question. That meant more limbo for the house while multiple constituencies squabbled over its future.

In the 1990s the Women’s Chamber of Commerce (WCC) stepped up and launched a major effort to restore Norcliff for use as a women's economic center and sculpture garden. The group spent years fundraising, but the City ultimately chose not to extend support, and the WCC was not able to complete the restoration. However, the Women’s Chamber did raise enough money to move the bungalow back to its original site in 1999. This was critically important to the future of the house, as it would pave the way for the site to later receive city historic landmarking. That, in turn, helped protect Norcliff when whispers of possible demolition began to surface.

So while the house was now back on the hill where it belonged by 1999, it was still boarded up..essentially abandoned, with time and weather continuing to take a dreadful toll.

Enter the Posse

A subcommittee of the South River City Citizens (SRCC) neighborhood group formed in 2008 to carry on the quest to restore the Norwood House and open it to the public as a rental venue. Calling itself the Norwood Posse, this group kept the project alive in newspaper articles and TV news coverage for years, building a broad base of support throughout the city and working with Austin’s Parks & Recreation Department (PARD) and other stakeholders on a plan to save Norcliff.

The Posse’s efforts culminated in a City Council Resolution in early 2010, supporting restoration of the Norwood house; however, there was still no commitment of city funds for the project. By this time, the major recession that began in 2008 was forcing cities everywhere to slash budgets and look for creative new ways to pay for parks and other city services. Ideas about public/private partnerships began to take hold.

Norwood had been excluded from bond programs time and again. The house would have to continue to wait, deteriorating each and every day.

The feasibility study

In an effort to finally address the future of the Norwood tract, PARD commissioned a formal feasibility study in 2010. The consulting architectural firm conducted multiple public meetings and produced a range of possible options from which the City could choose. PARD eventually adopted a plan known as the “Norwood Park Preferred Alternative." Due in major part to the Posse’s efforts, this plan included restoration of the Norwood house.

Finally, it seemed, protection was ensured. But was it?

From the Posse to the Foundation

Despite adoption by the Parks Department of the Preferred Alternative, and that plan's formal approval by the Parks Board in late 2011, there is still no funding in PARD’s budget - and none in the foreseeable future - for historic restoration of a house. Nor is there funding for PARD employees to operate and maintain Norcliff even if it is restored. In today’s political and economic climate, the message is clear that the Norwood House will have to largely pay for its own restoration and earn its own keep if it is to come back to life.

The Norwood Posse had understood that reality years before, and began to develop proposals to restore and operate Norcliff in public/private partnership with the City. The Posse attracted major donors in 2011 and determined that evolving into a new nonprofit would best help it achieve the goal of restoration. Accordingly, the Posse “dismounted its horse”, giving way for the Norwood Park Foundation (a Texas 501(c)3 nonprofit) to be incorporated in the spring of 2012.

Green light, red light, green for good?

In March 2012, NPF submitted a draft Parkland Improvement Agreement (PIA) to the City that spelled out a viable and financially sound future for Norcliff. Our plan is entirely nonprofit and creates a revenue-generating, 100% self-sustaining Norwood House, at minimal cost to the taxpayer. It doesn’t depend on a bond issue. It won’t place demands on our underfunded parks system. And it’s in sync with the realities of current cuts in public spending.

The 2012 document also proposed an innovative partnership with the City that is unlike traditional concession agreements in that it is not based on a private profit motive. Our nonprofit endeavor, instead, springs from a historic preservation motive. All revenues over expenses are retained by NPF solely for the benefit of the Norwood House and/or the overall parkland tract comprising Norwood Park.

Reflecting confidence in our plan and the home’s bright future, in June of 2012 the City Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for formalization of an agreement between NPF and PARD. This was welcome news for NPF! Just as we thought we were about to sign an agreement, however, a few legal snafus continued and had to be negotiated through the fall of 2012.

Happily, the result of that impasse was the passage on consent of a second City Council resolution in Dec. of 2012, permitting NPF to operate and manage the Norwood House as well as restore it - essential to the success of our mission.

Final issues were resolved as the initial document became a Parkland Improvement, Management & Operations Agreement (PIMOA). On June 20, 2013, NPF's first President & longtime champion, Wolf Sittler, signed the PIMOA at City Hall. The Agreement was subsequently signed by the City Manager, and the project officially launched with PARD and other departments in August of 2013.

The long-sought Agreement is now established, but until it is fully implemented, the Norwood House remains vulnerable. Stabilization has been accomplished, but it must be followed in a timely manner by completion of the project.

The way forward

The Norwood Park Foundation is the natural evolution of 30 years of efforts to save the Norwood House. Finally, the pieces are in place to solve the puzzle of competing stakeholder interests and get this precious historic asset rehabilitated.

We have a highly-regarded professional team and outstanding plans for the house and the site, but what we need going forth..is you! NPF has had enough “kickstart” funding to secure the house, stop the deterioration, and make a solid start on its rehabilitation - but we’ll need much more to finish the job. And what will you be creating with your donations? Read on.

Economic potential

Suppose you’ve got a special event to host. A party, a wedding, a gallery showing, a board meeting...the list is endless. There’s quite a limited number of charming, historic rental venues in our town that also happen to have a killer view of the city skyline! And as Austin’s population has increased so dramatically, demand has outpaced supply. The addition of the Norwood House to this market fills a demonstrated need. Its spectacular site overlooking Lady Bird Lake and its convenient central location will make it a highly desirable option for event planners.

With the addition of a new terrace behind the house, and utilizing the restored grounds and gardens immediately surrounding the home, Norcliff will be able to host reasonably large events. The interior of the 1800-sq. ft. bungalow has been completely opened up and will be redesigned to retain a vintage feel while operating in a thoroughly modern manner, with excellent traffic flow. Historic architectural elements of the site will be rehabilitated, and separate accessory structures will be built to support operations in an optimal manner.

The home will have a flexible floor plan with charming breakout rooms off the central event space. Mobile museum features are planned that will champion the site’s own storied cultural past as well as the history of the bungalow and the Arts & Crafts movement. And interpretive signage throughout the gardens and grounds will enlighten visitors on what a showcase estate the Norwood property once was.

A campaign ahead

That the Norwood House even exists at all today is a testament to the many Austinites who remember the house fondly and have already given decades of time and money defending it. This has always been a “people’s project," and we’re looking for many more civic-minded community members to join us. This plan, this time, is rock-solid and the right one for Norcliff - it's what we've all been waiting for:

- A partnership agreement is in place.

- Our professional team has completed initial schematic design work and a master plan.

- The critical and very significant Phase 1 steps of 1) environmental remediation, 2) structural stabilization and 3) rehabilitation of the site's heritage oaks have all been accomplished!

The future of the Norwood House has been up in the air for long enough! The stage is now set for a capital campaign to raise the funds needed to complete Phase 2 and open the doors to the public.

Protected forever

There is something worth remembering when it comes to the Norwood House: Ollie and Calie Norwood were wealthy enough to build anything. What they chose to build was an exquisite but essentially humble and unpretentious American bungalow. What they created on the site was an Arts & Crafts ideal that is unique in Austin and perhaps all of Texas. Understanding why they did this and restoring this heritage to the people of Austin is a journey our town shouldn’t miss. It has begun in earnest, but we all need to make sure it gets finished.

The Norwood House - regardless of its present appearance - absolutely can shine again as one of Austin’s special, small “places that matter." Its future can be ensured. It can be loved and shared with our children and their children, and we’ll never have to regret that yet another of our historic cultural treasures was lost. The opportunity is now. We’re underway and moving forward!

Won't you join us?

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