AISD to Buy Land for New Performing Arts Center

Back in May 2008, the voters of Austin went to the polls to decide on three proposed bond initiatives to support the Austin Independent School District (AISD).  The three propositions had a combined value of nearly $344 million dollars and included $40 million that was allocated for the land acquisition and construction costs for a new district-wide performing arts center that would be used by instrumental and vocal music, theater, speech, dance, and visual arts programs, as well as assemblies and commencement exercises.  The performing arts facility funding was included in Proposition 3, which won approval by 68.9% of voters on May 10, 2008.

LAND TO BE PURCHASED

The AISD Board of Trustees recently voted to move forward in the purchase of the land for the new performing arts center. In an 8-to-1 vote, with trustee Rob Schneider the lone negative, the board approved the location within the Mueller development and has authorized the purchase of a 4.5 acre tract near the intersection of East 51st Street and Mueller Boulevard at a price of $4 million.

According to the Mueller development website, the site represents an

“…ambitious effort to redevelop Robert Mueller Municipal Airport into a mixed-use urban village in the heart of the city has helped Austin chart new directions. Mueller is envisioned as a sustainable community that is meeting extensive goals in housing and economic development. The award-winning Mueller master plan and the ambitious Master Development Agreement with Catellus Development Group and the City of Austin are the culmination of decades of community planning efforts from visionary neighbors and active citizens.”

Plans for the area include residential homes, retail, parks and trails. Currently, the redevelopment of the area is well on its way with hundreds of homes already build. More importantly to the AISD, the area has new restaurants that parents could patronize on days when their students are using the performing arts center.

CONCERNS AND ISSUES

While the board overwhelmingly voted to approve the land acquisition, it was not without some concerns. The location is not ideal for the outlying schools within the AISD, but finding a location that all school parents would endorse would be nearly impossible in a district that stretches north to south from Parmer Lane to FM1626 and from east to west from Decker Lane to Southwest Parkway.

Another issue that was voiced concerned the estimated $280,000 per year that the facility will need to pay for utilities and maintenance. The bond initiative did not include money for the ongoing upkeep and facilities costs associated with the new building. While the bond election limits AISD from using the $40 million for anything but a new performing arts center, paying for the water, electricity, and wastewate would need to come from somewhere within an already stretched budget. With jobs being cut and the potential for school closures still lurking, spending money on utilities may be tough to do.

DETAILS FROM THE 2008 AISD BOND PROPOSITION

Here is a look at the 2008 Bond Proposition Summary, taken directly from the AISD website

Here are the results from that election, also taken directly from the AISD website:

IMPACTS OF THE NEW CENTER

From a real estate perspective, the new performing arts center may have a positive impact on the homes located nearby, particularly those within the Mueller development. The center will provide entertainment opportunities for everyone, with easy access for those who live nearby. The location of the center is not within the core of the residential homesites within Mueller, so there will likely be very little impact on the actual home prices, but the perceived value of living nearby may increase for some home buyers.

The cost of the land is most likely going to increase, if history is any guide. Thus, purchasing the land now, even if construction is not completed for some time, is probably a wise move given the direction of land prices in Austin. Centrally located plots suitable for this type of building will decrease over time, making the prices rise and limiting the ability to select a site that is ideal.

Information for this post came from a variety of sources, including:
KUT News
KXAN, Austin News
The Austin Independent School District
The Mueller Development

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