Austin City Council approves site plan for new Dougherty Arts Center


At its May 20 meeting, the Austin City Council unanimously approved a site for the new Daugherty Arts Center at Butler Shores Park.

But it’s not the plan recommended by city staff. In March, the council was shown four options for where the new municipal arts center might fit on the parkland on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake.

In a move led by District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen, the council instead approved the option know as 1A, which puts the arts center closer to Zach Theatre and farther away from the hike and bike trail. City staffers preferred option, known as 1B, which would have put the arts center adjacent to the hike and bike trail, taken up more parkland and added a 200-space underground garage parking.

Dougherty Arts Center
The city council approved the site plan for the new Dougherty Arts Center known as Option 1A (above). City staff had recommended Option 1B (below).

In addition to Zach Theatre, the park is also home to the Parks and Recreation Department, a mid-century modern structure eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, and two AISD ballfields.

At the council meeting, Save our Springs leaders Bill Bunch and Bobby Levinski both urged the council to select Option 1A because it lessens the loss of open parkland. Previously, the city’s Environmental Commission had also expressed its concerns about Option 1B because of its impact on available green space.

The motion made by council member Kitchen also included direction for the plan to establish Riverside Drive as the principle public ingress and egress to Butler Shores Park, not the narrower Toomey Road which borders the park on its south side.

A 2010 study deemed the current Dougherty Arts Center, on Barton Springs Road, beyond repair and its site flood prone. Austin voters approved bonds in November 2018 for the $28.5 million needed to relocate and build a new municipal arts center and school. Construction is slated to begin in 2022.

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