Nestled near the corner of Navasota and Cotton streets in East Austin, the renovated John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building now serves as the new off-campus office of the Center for Community Engagement.
In 1952, this midcentury-style building was built following the designs of John Saunders Chase, the first licensed Black architect in Texas and the first Black graduate from UT’s School of Architecture. Holding a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, the Chase building at 1191 Navasota St. previously served as the Colored Teachers Association of Texas headquarters and a beauty salon called the House of Elegance.
UT purchased the 1,450-square-foot building in 2017. Nathan Goodman, an architect and the design services project manager at UT’s Project Management and Construction Services, and Dorothy Fojtik, the project manager, worked with others from this group to assess the site and design potential floor plans.
When Goodman and his team first visited the building, they found a poorly built parking lot, outdated plumbing, asbestos and other problems.
“It’s challenging to understand what shape the building was in when we inherited it,” Goodman says. “It’s hard to really appreciate the completion of construction and the final finishes and everything being installed if you didn’t have a reference of what it was before.”
Despite these challenges and budget issues, the Project Management and Construction Services team worked with Donna Carter, the president of Carter Design Associates, and the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement to transform the one-story building into a contemporary multipurpose space. Finished in August, the building boasts multiple conference rooms and ample outdoor space open to anyone from UT or Austin who wants to use the university’s resources to fight for change in their community. The Center for Community Engagement also maintains its on-campus office in the Student Services Building.