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Cultural trust hopes to build pipeline of future creative space projects

Thursday, December 2, 2021 by Chad Swiatecki

The city’s new economic development corporation expects to begin its investment in a half-dozen venues and creative space projects by late spring, with $16.9 million in play to help combat the displacement of arts-focused businesses and organizations.

The money will be available to a handful of applicants who submit to a recently opened request for proposals for the long-awaited cultural trust that City Council members see as one of the best options for preserving threatened creative spaces as well as opening new facilities. The RFP is currently open and will take applicants through March 31, with an information session scheduled for next week.

The cultural trust is the first major project for the EDC, which Council created last year after years of planning and study. As an entity that is more loosely connected to the city but has many tools of a public body, including the ability to issue bonds for large projects, the EDC has more flexibility than the Economic Development Department.

The cultural trust funding comes from three sources: a $12 million bond package approved by voters in 2018; $2.4 million in Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue; and a city budget allocation of $2.5 million specifically to help preserve iconic music venues.

Anne Gatling Haynes, chief transactions officer, said the legal requirements attached to those sources by the city and state will play a large role in determining which applicant projects will be eligible for funding. In recent meetings Haynes said it is expected two existing music venues will be selected, with the city also looking to improve or create numerous creative hub facilities that could house multiple arts and creative organizations.

From a hoped-for pool of 30-40 applicants, she said the cultural trust hopes to create a pipeline of future projects that could be funded through philanthropy, future bond packages and mission-driven investment partners.

“Our emphasis here is to build a pipeline of needs in the community because certainly we know of these funding sources, but also knowing what more of the needs are in the community is going to help us either raise or identify the funds to support those projects over time,” she said.

“The key is to make visible the incredible infrastructure of creative arts, music and culture we have in Austin and make sure additional dollars can be leverages to support this important DNA of the city.”

The organization is in the process of hiring its first chief operating officer and a CEO.

Other projects it is becoming involved in include the redevelopment and cultural considerations of the portions of East 11th Street near the Victory Grill nightclub, as well as helping to manage the tax increment reinvestment zone for the South Central Waterfront District along South Congress Avenue.

Haynes said the data that is gathered from cultural trust applicants will help to identify the specific needs in the creative community, and could be used to help design a future bond proposal to fund more investments.

“There is definitely room for philanthropic support in the form of grants and also investments that are mission-related and could provide some stability to the program. There would also hopefully be some additional public funds for the program, though I don’t know if it would be the same kind of bonds that were issued in previous times. Partnering with banks and community development financial institutions would be great, especially for real estate projects with revenue that’s been identified.”

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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