Austin is identifying $65 million in critical needs for cultural infrastructure projects that will be under consideration for a possible bond vote in 2024.
A memo from Parks and Recreation Department Director Kimberly McNeeley informs City Council and Mayor Kirk Watson last week details the progress being made on a handful of major creative space projects funded by the city and looks at long-term needs for local arts and music communities.
The memo says that design work on the expansion of the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center and the relocation of the Dougherty Arts Center are proceeding.
The MACC expansion is expected to begin in July, with a focus on site and infrastructure improvements. The Dougherty project has is in the construction document and permitting phase and has received funding from the city to begin construction near ZACH Theatre at Butler Shores.
Neither project is fully funded, and both would likely need money from the 2024 bond issue will be needed to be completed,
Last week’s memo notes that until a funding plan for the new Dougherty Arts Center is agreed upon, the existing facility on Barton Springs Road will continue to offer arts programs “for as long as the building remains viable.”
The $27 million Mexican American Cultural Center expansion has been in discussion for nearly a decade, with its current rehearsal and performance spaces at maximum capacity. Some of the funding for the expansion was provided in a 2018 bond package to support cultural centers, and last year, members of the Mexican American Cultural Center advisory board expressed concern about the designs and how the new configuration would be able to handle large events and festivals.
The memo also points to possible improvements to the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center and the Asian American Resource Center. The Carver Museum received $7.5 million for building improvements in the 2018 bond election. The Asian American Resource Center received $7 million.
A request for quotes for the Carver expansion is expected this fall or winter, to determine design and early cost estimates. The Asian American Resource Center had its design schematic approved in November, and leaders there are working on creating the final design and development proposal, though the memo doesn’t note a possible completion date for that work.
The memo notes that the 2022 request for proposals issued by the Austin Economic Development Corporation was used to identify a pipeline of both high-priority projects in the near term using existing bond funds, as well as larger projects that could be completed in the future. That request found more than $300 million in needs, but the shortlist totaled around $65 million.
The Austin Economic Development Corporation has closed two projects this year: $400,000 for improvements at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex and $2 million to renovate more than 7,000 square feet of space in the city’s Permitting and Development Center on Highland Mall Boulevard and Middle Fiskville Road, in order to make the facility into an exhibition and studio space for local artists.