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City Council Approves $4.5 million for new Austin Playhouse Arts Center!



On December 14, 2023 Austin City Council unanimously approved a recommendation from the Austin Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) that Austin Playhouse receive a $4.5M investment from the 2018 Creative Spaces Bonds. With this investment Austin Playhouse is accelerating the final phase of their Capital Campaign. More information about the new Austin Playhouse Arts Center project can be found at austinplayhouse.com/building-fund. Austin Playhouse will permanently anchor this new arts center and serve as the facility manager on behalf of the Austin Cultural Trust, managed by AEDC.


The $4.5M will be allocated to the estimated $7.5M project that will provide two new theaters, rehearsal and classroom spaces, and lobby in a new multi-purpose facility that, once complete, will be open and available to the public, and is envisioned as a vibrant, inclusive, accessible, and affordable arts center serving the City of Austin.


“We’re intent on raising the profile of Austin’s arts community with our decades-long history of supporting emerging arts organizations through subsidized rent, mentorships, and collaborations,” said Austin Playhouse Producing Artistic Director Lara Toner Haddock. “Having flexible and affordable spaces throughout the city is essential to the sustainability of Austin's cultural ecosystem. We will still need to raise the remaining funds necessary to complete the project, but this tremendous support from the City makes it a gap and not an insurmountable chasm.”


Established in 2000 by founding Producing Artistic Director Don Toner and over twenty Austin-area artists, Austin Playhouse has operated in various venues around Austin for more than 20 years. A converted warehouse at Penn Field housed the professional theatre company until having to vacate in 2011 due to rising rents, moving to a renovated Footlocker in the Highland Mall, to their current interim space in University Baptist Church’s Education Building in Central Austin.


Working toward a permanent venue for more than a decade, in 2012 Austin Playhouse funded a

Nonprofit Arts Market Survey administered by national nonprofit developer ArtSpace with the purpose of identifying the most relevant space needs in the Austin arts community.


Austin Playhouse conducted a series of “town hall” community conversations in 2017 to survey existing arts organizations on their space needs which inspired and directly influenced the current proposed design, especially with regard to the most-needed venue sizes for small and mid-size groups.


In 2019, Austin Playhouse purchased a 2.8-acre tract of undeveloped land on the Hwy 183 frontage road, just East of I-35 near the Cameron Road intersection. Designed by Austin’s Forge Craft Architecture, the 25,000 square foot facility is a tilt-wall concrete building. The ground floor will be home to a 207-seat mainstage and a 99-seat second-stage theatre, along with a lobby, classrooms, and support facilities. The mezzanine level will include Austin Playhouse offices, storage, and technical booths.


The project was fully permitted in 2020 and ready to begin construction when the global pandemic and subsequent rise in construction costs delayed groundbreaking. Austin Playhouse has maintained necessary permits and continued fundraising efforts in the interim.


“Austin Playhouse applied to the AEDC Cultural Trust with their vision. The Cultural Trust evaluation process considered many factors including the Playhouse’s site control, work accomplished advancing their vision, their ability to leverage a public investment with additional resources, and their commitment to affordability. AEDC will manage the operating agreement, on behalf of the City of Austin, to assure affordability and accessibility.” – Theresa Alvarez, CEO of AEDC.

  

In November 2021, AEDC initiated a Request for Proposal (RFP) receiving 45 applications to the Austin Cultural Trust representing over $300M of needs. The RFP included projects for both the $12M Creative Spaces Bond as well as the Iconic Venue Fund, which at the time was $4.9M.


City Council allocated $2M in December 2022 to the build out of a new flexible space in the Permitting & Development Center (PDC), to be operated by Rude Mechs and Austin Bat Cave, with another $400K allocated to the Millenium Youth Center to support the renovation of their theater space. In July of 2023, AEDC announced the first Iconic Venue investment of $1.6M to Hole in the Wall on Guadalupe Street. 


For more information on investing in the new Austin Playhouse Arts Center, please contact Brian Coughlin, Development Manager at development@austinplayhouse.com!

For more information on the AEDC and the Austin Cultural Trust, please visit: Austin Cultural Trust — AEDC (austinedc.org)

Visit https://www.austinplayhouse.com/building-fund to learn more about this project!

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