‘This home … has built who I am as a person today:’ North Campus Avalon Co-op to close after 24 years

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Mechanical engineering graduate student Brittany Speetles walks past the long line of posters, drawings and notes left on the hallway walls inside The Avalon Co-op on University Avenue where Speetles lives with 20 other students. The Avalon Co-op is set to permanently close in May and a new substance-free co-op will take its place as a mixed-use development.

Photo Credit: Elias Huerta

The Avalon Co-op was the first place where Anna DePenning felt at home since leaving her childhood home.

“This home has changed me so much and has built who I am as a person today, and there’s just so much love in the house,” said DePenning, nutrition senior.  “It makes me kinda sad to think that what I experienced, no one else is going to experience again.”

The Avalon Co-op, home to 22 upper-division and graduate students, will close at the end of the semester. The North Campus cooperative living space was leased to Inter-Cooperative Council Austin, a non-profit cooperative housing association, for 24 years. Property owner Washoe Company notified ICC Austin of the termination of the Avalon’s lease in early November. Washoe Company has secured demolition permits for all buildings in the Avalon Co-op, as well as all other buildings on the lots between 30 and 31st Street. 

“This is a sad loss for ICC Austin as a collective and an even sadder loss for you — the members who have made Avalon their home and their community,” ICC Executive Director Ashleigh Lassiter said in a November email to Avalon residents.

The Avalon Co-op consists of two buildings, plus a small two-person cottage. Residents share bathrooms, common living areas, a garden and prepare meals together. DePenning said the Avalon is more “mellow” than other co-ops.

 

“It’s just a really tight-knit community, and I really like it,” DePenning said. “I often get stuck in little heart-to-heart conversations in the kitchen in the mornings when I’m just trying to make myself some coffee.”

Residents are allowed to paint on the walls of the houses and have created several large and colorful murals around the co-op. Cheyenne Costello, geography senior and Avalon resident, said the murals are like the mythology of the Avalon.

“We refer to (the murals) like they’re their own entities,” Costello said. 

Lassiter said while the ICC is losing Avalon, the nonprofit is working on developing a new co-op, called Ruth Schulze, set to open this fall.

“It’s the first time ICC has fully developed a co-op,” Lassiter said. “Most of these houses have been here for a long time. So we were able to purchase this property, and we’re building a new 34 member co-op.”

However, Emily Brehob, Avalon resident and global policy graduate student, said the new co-op might not fit every resident’s lifestyle.

“The Ruth Schulze is a substance-free co-op,” Brehob said. “People who don’t want to live in a substance-free co-op, that’s not an option for them.”

Mike McHone, real estate broker who represents Washoe Company, said any future development will be in accordance with the Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan. The plan lists the Avalon lot as a mixed-use zone, which could include an office, commercial business or living space in a single development. 

McHone said he could not comment on future development plans for the lot.

Like several other residents, DePenning and Costello are both moving to another co-op when the lease expires.

“I definitely moved into a co-op because I really value community,” DePenning said. “(Costello and I) are going to be bedroom neighbors and share a wall.”