Repurposing Sims Elementary School


Sims Elementary School is a 44,444 square foot school facility constructed in 1956 situated on a 7.95 acre site located in East Austin at 1203 Springdale Road and bordered by Springdale Road, East 12th Street, Webberville Road, and residential homes to the North.

Sims closed after the 2020-2021 school year and was merged with Norman Elementary School, which is located at 4001 Tannehill Lane. The modernized Norman-Sims Elementary School features flexible learning spaces, natural light, outdoor classrooms and new media technology. A modernized school allows students to be active learners in 21st-century learning spaces as they collaborate, use technology and move within the classroom.

Current Status

In response to Austin ISD’s needs during the implementation of the 2022 Bond Program, the District has decided to use the Sims campus as a temporary location for the Harris Elementary students and staff while their modernized facility is under construction. Once that work is complete, the Sims campus may be used as a temporary location for another elementary school as part of the 2022 Bond. While this limits our ability in the short term to repurpose Sims, the District heard clear support from the community to offer the facility instead of placing our students in portables.

But repurposing conversations will continue, and the next community meeting will take place on October 17, 2023 during which the District will share the findings from the feasibility study.


Phase 1: Equity and Community Engagement

From May 2023 – June 2023, the district hosted a series of community meetings and solicited input from the community members and stakeholders about their needs and how the site could best respond to those needs. We heard the following issues/concerns:

  • Need more transparency and communication from Austin ISD
  • Need to be cognizant of the history of the site and the neighborhood
  • Need to complement the culture of the community (old and new neighbors), and bring back excellence 
  • Need stability for student/families regarding housing and services

Further, via a public survey, community members were asked to share their thoughts on the future use of the site. The top-rated thoughts included the following:

  • “There should be an effort to retain the Sims name or to note the historic significance of Ms. Sims and the building. Too much history is being lost in East Austin. Don't let this building be another casualty of gentrification.”
  • “Mixed use development with larger retail space for a community sized grocery store, and other smaller retail spaces. The community is currently in a food desert with limited fresh groceries available at dollar stores or convenience stores.”
  • “Multi-purpose community space, affordable grocery/farmers market, coffee shop, community art/event space, making use of the park space for kids. Used to be a school-- should not be razed for condos, this neighborhood needs more open + collaborative/creative space for its residents”
  • “Convert it to apartments/condos. Consider low income opportunities. We need housing options around here that aren’t $700,000”
  • “Grocery store We all need healthy food options”
  • “A multi-use retail space that includes a grocery store, with parking, extending the playground with a walking path. A central, safe space for the neighborhood. The Shack is not safe, there is gang & drug related activity there at all hours.”
  • “Convert the gymnasium into a propagation room, for growing trees, annual food, and Texas natives for distribution and installation within East Austin. While increasing biodiversity and green infrastructure within East Austin, we will prepare our community and children for a career in ecology/farming."
  • “Area is a food desert. Need an actual small grocer with produce, casual dining, coffee/cafe. Coffee shop across the street has moved and we have to travel far for any kind of food that isn’t fast food.”
  • “Community Garden and Public space for learning. Creating food and knowledge is key”
  • “Affordable housing reserved for teachers and their families. Density is OK. Retail on the first floor (lease $$$ for the district) and housing on top. Provide affordable living for teachers and income for the district.”

Click here to read the full summary report of the community meetings and survey.

Phase 2 and 3: Real Estate, Financial and Economic Analysis

The district engaged Hayat Brown LLC through a competitive procurement process to conduct a feasibility study of the site. The study was delivered in October 2023 and included the following key findings:

  • Area is witnessing significant population growth and rising property values
  • Area is attracting higher-income residents, and the proportion of renter-occupied units is growing
  • Nearby rental apartments cater to young professionals and non-family renters - clear lack of family-sized units (2 or more bedrooms)
  • Current facility is 67 years old and estimated cost over next decade to address deficiencies and renovation is $9.8 million

Strengths and opportunities were identified:

  • Size of site (7+ acres)
  • Existing building size and layout
  • Planned renovations to support swing space use
  • Ample time for planning and implementation

Along with weaknesses and threats:

  • Age and condition of existing facility
  • Current zoning does not allow non-school uses
  • Heritage / protected trees and power lines 
  • Site not viable for regional / national grocer or medical service provider
    • Lack of daily traffic (foot and vehicle) and low visibility
    • Lack of neighboring tenants 
  • Delay in repurposing timeline due to swing space use

Aerial Map

Key Information

  • 1203 Springdale Road,
    Austin, TX 78721
  • Property ID: 202863
  • Lot Size: 7.95 acres
  • Building Size: 44,444 SF
  • Year Built: 1956
  • Parking: 63 stalls
  • Zoning: P-NP