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Asian American Resource Center planners hope to break ground in mid-2010

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 by Austin Monitor

Talk to Schiller Liao and he’ll tell you that one of the inconveniences facing Asian business representatives visiting Austin is having to travel all the way to Dallas or Houston to receive services from their governments. One possible solution to this problem: attracting foreign consulates from Asian countries to relocate their offices to the capital city.


Enter the Asian American Resource Center, a proposed multi-use structure that supporters hope will provide educational, cultural, economic, and, yes, consular, opportunities for the city “We think this (locating foreign consulates) will provide increased commerce and showcase Asian culture,” said Liao, a native of Taiwan who is the Austin Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce president, a member of the Asian American Resource Center advisory board, and a project manager at the University of Texas.


Liao and his fellow members of the Asian American Resource Center advisory board recently outlined a schedule that could mean groundbreaking on the $5 million first phase of the Asian American Resource Center as soon as June 2010.


Volunteer board members, including three new members at their first meeting, discussed providing a presentation to City Council on Jan. 14 or Jan. 28 to get approval for the scope of the first phase, which would include a multi-function, 9,000-square-foot event hall and a library, classrooms, and offices.


The Council will decide whether to issue a request for qualifications (RFQ) from design/builders and then would approve the contract on the initial phase of the project. The project is located on 15 acres of city-owned land on Cameron Road just north of Rutherford, a site that backs up to Little Walnut Creek.


This initial phase is being funded mostly by a general obligation bond issue that voters approved in 2006. If things go according to plan, said Liao, the AARC could open in mid-2012.


Liao and board Chair Ahsan Chowdhury also serve on the board of the Asian American Resource Center, the nonprofit group that is spear-heading the project by soliciting input from community organizations, donations, and pro bono services from architects, engineers, and other professionals.


Advisory members did not take any action last week after Board Member Imad Ahmed suggested that he and other new board members needed time to review a design build criteria manual for the project. As envisioned, the project includes additional privately funded phases as part of an overall $34 million development with an Asian-style gated entrance, retail shops, and an amphitheater.


After the meeting, Liao told In Fact Daily that the project “is very smoothly moving forward,” though he said planners continue to try to recruit donations and pro bono services. They are looking for volunteer professionals such as a landscape architect, an interior designer, and a green-building consultant to help with parts of the development.

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