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MACC board wants questions answered before approving expansion plan

Friday, February 11, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

Leaders from the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center want the public to have more input on plans to expand the Rainey Street facility, because of concerns early planning documents don’t provide enough details about public access and how large events would fit there.

Last week, the MACC advisory board delayed taking any action on the phase two schematic design for the center, which calls for a $27 million expansion using bond money approved by voters in 2018.

The project would add roughly 68,500 square feet to the 36,000-square-foot facility by extending both sides of the semicircle design and creating a lower level that partially opens up to the nearby lake and trail. That lake-level cutout is intended to add more classroom space and reconfigure the center’s central zócalo gathering space to allow for better management of large crowds for music performances and other events.

Board members have also expressed concerns about how the public would be able to access the facility from the lower-level hike-and-bike trail.

Board Member Art Navarro said these concerns need to be addressed while the project is still in the schematic phase so the plan can include seating and infrastructure for large live music events that MACC patrons see as an important feature of their community.

“My concerns have been that, all during this past year in the community engagement that has gone on, there was no aspect of the design that dealt with music events and outdoor concerts. I was disappointed all along by that because there is a sizable community group very dedicated to those events with 2,000 to 4,000 attending those,” he said. “It’s not too early to bring this up, because for a year now Public Works has said the only opportunity to discuss items not in the plan is during the schematic phase. So if it’s not in the schematic phase it won’t be in subsequent evolutions, and the only changes that could take place would be because of cost restrictions to stay within the $27 million budget.”

Navarro said he will submit a plan to amend the design to include live music considerations before the March meeting.

While the schematic design received an early approval from the Design Commission at its January meeting, the MACC advisory board has spent its last two meetings discussing concerns with city staff and the architects involved in the project.

At a special meeting in January, Chair David Goujon said he sees potential for improving the facility in the plans from Austin-based Miró Rivera Architects and Mexico City-based architect Tatiana Bilbao, but wants to get the access and zócalo questions answered before moving forward with significant investments in the nearby trail as part of the lower-level cutout.

“The part that I’m still trying to understand is about the zócalo and how that is going to function, not just as a place for public gathering,” he said. “The person coming down the Butler hike-and-bike trail, or in the future off the new hub for Cap Metro’s Blue Line, they’re going to come into the Rainey Street district and what they’re going to see is quite amazing … at the same time I want to make sure we are focused on fulfilling the needs of our community members. “

At the January meeting, architect Juan Miró said designers have had a number of considerations to balance in making the plans for the expansion, including the needs for more classroom, rehearsal and performance space as well as making the finished project aesthetically pleasing within its budget constraints.

Project rendering by Miró Rivera Architects and Tatiana Bilbao Studio.

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