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Design Commission eyes Dougherty Arts Center plan

Wednesday, February 24, 2021 by Jonathan Lee

The Design Commission on Monday gave feedback on design alternatives for the Dougherty Arts Center redevelopment, setting up a City Council discussion next month. Though commissioners differed on the best alternative, they commended the project as a whole.

The “beloved” community arts center, currently located at 1110 Barton Springs Road, will move next to the ZACH Theatre complex at Butler Shores, replacing two Little League baseball fields.

In 2019, City Council approved the center’s relocation from the current building, which is run-down and located in a 100-year floodplain. The project will be funded using part of a $128 million bond for arts and cultural facilities that passed in 2018.

“The relocation of this facility has had a long and storied past,” said Kevin Johnson of the Parks and Recreation Department. The move has been contemplated for over a decade.

The new center will complement the existing ZACH complex, forming a “civic arts district” at Butler Shores.

“We’re excited about the confluence of cultural arts programming that will exist at this site and the opportunity to redevelop the DAC within a parkland setting,” Johnson said.

The project team is considering four potential building arrangements as part of the early design phase. PARD and Dougherty Center employees prefer option 1b. Some commissioners agreed, but others preferred option 1a.

Option 1a:

Dougherty RedevelopmentOption 1a

Option 1b:

Dougherty redevelopment option 1b

Johnson said they prefer option 1b because the building would connect well to the Butler Hike and Bike Trail and better address site challenges like building around existing heritage trees.

The commissioners who preferred option 1a pointed to its compact layout and the contiguous, car-free park space around the complex. “Let’s have a smaller footprint,” Commissioner Aan Coleman said.

Commissioner Jessica Rollason noted that a compact design separates buildings from park space. “Let the parkland be parkland and let the urban condition be urban,” she said. “And let those two things have a beautiful tension between each other.”

Rollason worried that the large circular driveway in option 1b would prioritize “parent drop-off and pickup over thousands of people’s experience of this.”

Though the commissioners could not agree on a preferred option, they commended the plans on the whole. “There’s not a bad site plan here,” Coleman said. Rollason recommended that if the design team chooses 1b, they should “mitigate the sense that that is a space for cars and not people.”

No matter the design, an underground parking structure with around 230 spaces will be built to serve Dougherty, ZACH, Butler Shores and the two remaining Little League fields. The proposed Zilker Point office building at 218 S. Lamar will also offer 80 spaces for arts district parking, and most of the surface parking on Toomey Road will stay.

Both options keep the historic main PARD offices in their current location, with an eye toward renovating the 1959 structure, though this is not yet funded.

The new Dougherty building will seek a LEED Gold rating, and its roof “will consist of occupied areas, planted areas and at least 50 percent will be solar ready.” Construction is scheduled to begin in fall 2022 and finish in spring 2024.

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