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Dougherty move OK’d but questions remain

Monday, May 13, 2019 by Jo Clifton

Council voted Thursday to instruct the Parks and Recreation Department to move forward with preparing a design for a new site for the Dougherty Arts Center at Butler Shores Park. However, the instructions were not an all-out endorsement of the park site and left open the possibility that Dougherty might end up somewhere else.

The vote was 9-2, with Council Member Greg Casar temporarily off the dais, and Council members Jimmy Flannigan and Pio Renteria opposed.

Residents of Toomey Road, which will provide access to the new arts center, expressed concern about how much new traffic the center might generate on the narrow street.

The new site will be directly west of Zach Scott’s Kleberg Theatre and will displace two ball fields, but promises to offer more space for programs, many of which serve children, as well as a parking garage. Community members speaking to Council expressed their views both for and against the new site.

Lucky Lemieux, president of Friends of the Dougherty Arts Center, told Council it is time to move on the project after 10 years of waiting. She said the city has considered multiple sites and the center needs to stay centrally located.

Mayor Steve Adler brought up the possibility of taking over a school district site, since Austin ISD will be closing some schools and will likely announce the closures in August.

Glenn Neal, treasurer of the Barton Place Homeowners Association, said he knows residents who are both for and against the relocation, but all are concerned about traffic and parking. That was the theme that resonated with Council Member Ann Kitchen, who along with Adler is hoping that the early design phase will help eliminate those problems.

Council Member Kathie Tovo and Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza expressed impatience with the idea that Thursday’s vote might not be enough to settle the final home of the new Dougherty Arts Center. The old center is in Tovo’s district and the new center will be in Kitchen’s district.

Renteria, who voted against the motion, said that he would prefer Zavala Elementary School or the site of the old Holly Power Plant. Flannigan said he didn’t think very many of his District 6 constituents would use the new center in its proposed location.

The Design Commission, the Planning Commission and the Arts Commission all recommended approval of the Dougherty Arts Center at the new Butler Shores Park site. The recommendation from the design and planning commissions was unanimous. The Arts Commission made the recommendation on a vote of 7-3. Its statement reads in part:

“Austin is losing creative working, performance and exhibition space at an alarming rate. Indeed, access to affordable creative space is one of the largest crises we face as a creative community. Multiple arts venues have been eliminated or are under threat. Among those is the Dougherty Arts Center, which is in desperate need of repair and eventual relocation.

“With a failing roof, a location in the flood plain, and intense pressures placed on the facility to meet increasing community need, time is of the essence. With the Parks and Recreation Department’s examination of multiple location options, we believe that the relocation of the Dougherty Arts Center to the Butler Shores Park is a thoughtful, practical and economical solution.”

Photo by Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0Wikimedia Commons.

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