AUSTIN (KXAN) - Bring down the plant, build the park. That's the battle cry in East Austin these days.
The final phase of dismantling the Holly Street Power Plant began Friday as a giant crane tackled boiler unit No. 1. After 52 years of contributing to Austin's electric supply, the plant's time had come.
"Everything has a beginning and an end," said Oscar Backus, senior spokesman for Austin Energy. "This power plant served the citizens for many years, but technology outdid it."
The first unit went up in 1960 and more were built over the years. But by 2007, all four units were decommissioned. They've been replaced by a more modern, efficient plant.
Last year, there was a nasty legal squabble over bidding rights for the Holly project. When the original contractor, TRC Environmental Corp., cut its original $24 million bid in half it got the job.
But don't expect a dynamite-powered implosion. Holly will come down piece by piece.
"You'd see a plant fall and all this dust everywhere," Backus said. "Not here. No dynamite, no noise. It's controlled because we have all these residences right next door."
The Holly Plant was long considered a hulking eyesore in East Austin. Now, there will be a stark change in the landscape.
"I imagine it will have a positive effect on property values," City Councilman Mike Martinez said, who lives in the east side. "Being that it is currently industrial use and will go back to being a park land, which is a huge amenity living near such a great green space, which is what this area will become."
Music to the ears of neighbors like Joe Perez.
He, his parents and other kinfolk have been living in four homes next to the plant since the 1970s. Joe is the only one left of the family on Riverview Drive.
"I'm the last of the Mohicans," he said with a laugh. "It's kind of a blessing to see that power plant go down.
"I wondered what it was like for kids who never woke up to the sound of nature. This was like being on the tarmac of an aircraft carrier. I find it comforting the neighborhood will finally get what it deserves."
The plant project will take until June 2013, then plans can begin for the nine-acre park
Before that happens, tens of thousands of tons of scrap metal will have to be cut up and hauled away. Neighbors say it will be worth the wait.
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