Building the Lakeside Campus 1970-1975

2nd in a series submitted by Brian Schenk, AHS Archivist

In September, 1969, the taxpayers of Austin approved a $74  million dollar bond issue which included a renovation or replacement of the Rio Grande Campus of Austin High School.  The main building at that site was more than fifty years old and the newest additions had reached their thirtieth year.   Community support was lacking for “rebuilding at the old site” for parents feared the “splitting of the school” during the years of construction. A parent group, formed during the spring of 1970, expressed strong objections to the renovation concept on the Rio Grande site.  They  wanted  to get the school out of the “heavy commercialized area” to what they felt would be a “more suitable site” elsewhere.   And they saw the need for more “off street parking”.  School Board President Roy Butler agreed that the Rio Grande Campus could not just keep on being remodeled and that the site was not up to the standards of a new building and to make Austin High School Comparable to other AISD schools being built, it would have to move to another site.  On November 24, 1970, the Board voted 5-1 for the Town Lake/Butler Brick tract site as their first choice for a new location for Austin High.  Taxpayers were divided on building a new Austin High at the Lakeside location, since it was part of the A. J. Zilker park gift.   Environmentalists, in particular, felt that the use of park land for the school violated the spirit of the gift of land to the city by A. J. Zilker in 1931.  Negotiations and legal activities continued through 1971, with a land contract for the sale of land from the city to the school district drawn up in May, 1971, at a sale price of $749,000 plus the cost of relocation of a sewer line through the property.  At public hearing held on November 4, 1971, all members of the Austin City Council and all members of the Board of School Trustees were present.   Citizen opposition was heard from environmental groups including the local Sierra Club and the Austin Environmental Council.    Requiring that “part of the site be left in its natural state to be used in studies by students”, the School Board directed staff to purchase the 32.8 acre Lakeside site after condemnation.  The Sierra Club of Austin then filed suit in State court to block the sale in November, 1972.  After a trial and an appeal, the Texas Supreme Court upheld the right of the school district to condemn and purchase the land.   So ended the legal battles.
Construction on the new site began soon after the court decision.    Barnes, Landes, Goodman and Youngblood were selected as project architects on January 10, 1972, and final plans for the project were approved April 10, 1972.    The Gray Construction Company of Austin was selected as the General Contractor for the project on July 25, 1973, with a cost estimate of $5,533,430.    Adding the cost of the land, site preparation and relocation of utilities, the total cost of the project was estimated to be $7,500,000.
Students and staff at the Rio Grande campus began the sad process of packing the mementos of a fifty-year occupancy by the school at that site.  The Memorial Stone, the 1939 entrance plates, the Mansbendel wood sculptures in the library and main office, and thousands of trophies, placqes and awards, all had to be prepared for transporting to the new site.  The first day of school at the Lakeside Campus was August 25, 1975, and the class of 1976 were the first Lakeside campus graduates.

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