Feature Ilustration (above): Concept rendering of the future Dougherty Arts Center. Courtesy: City of Austin Parks & Recreation Department.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Austin (Travis County) — The Austin Planning Commission on Tuesday approved the concept master plan for the new Dougherty Arts Center, setting the stage for May 9 action by City Council.
Once City Council approves the master plan, staff would draft Request for Qualification solicitations for a design contract. The Design Commission approved the concept at its March hearing and the Arts Commission will be given a presentation April 15.
The new Dougherty Arts Center is to include a detached structured parking garage. While members of the Design Commission expressed a desire for a larger garage to eliminate more surface parking, they did not make it a condition of approval. However, the Planning Commission added several conditions that affect the parking garage.
Butler Shores Park (above) as it exists today. The reconfigured park (below), according to the conceptual master plan. Courtesy: RVi and PARD.
Their April 9 motion recommended that parking and a traffic demand management study be done for the entire complex; that it take into consideration future planned public transit investments for the purpose of minimizing the number of parking spaces; that the garage design be innovative in ways that provide sustainability features and a theme appropriate for an arts district (such as a green roof and rain capture systems); that users be charged to park; that the structure be convertible as future expansion space for the arts center; and that a mobility hub be designed north of the garage and next to the Butler Hike and Bike Trail with amenities for cyclists, such as bike racks and showers.
The planning commissioners also wanted to limit access to the garage to one ingress/egress point, but the private consultants on the master plan pushed back, noting that the two entrance design was at the request of arts center staff and residents and based on numerous sound issues.
The existing Dougherty Arts Center is located at the northwest corner of Barton Springs Road and Dawson Road. It was built in 1947 as a facility for the Navy/Marine Reserves and passed into the city’s custody in 1978. It outlived its usefulness about 20 years ago, according to the architects on the project, but nevertheless remains in use.
The building will eventually be demolished and the site converted back to park land. The new building site is located about a half-mile to the northwest on what is currently two baseball fields used by the Austin Independent School District. Kevin Johnson, a project manager with the Parks and Recreation Department, told the Design Commission that the city is in ongoing negotiations with AISD over the transfer of control of the property.
The new arts center was the main priority of the parks department in the November 2018 bond election. When presented to the voters, the project was given an estimated cost of $25 million, however, Johnson said, “We are now working with a project budget of slightly over $28 million to develop a new Dougherty Arts Center.”
The city retained the services of Barbara Austin of RVi landscape architects to develop a master plan, and Jonathan Pearson of Studio 8 Architects was brought in as a consultant to RVi.
When asked by the Planning Commission which delivery method might be used, Johnson said it would likely be a construction manger at risk. PARD hopes to begin construction by the summer of 2021 and have a new arts center by first quarter of 2023, if not sooner. The design, permitting and bidding stages will take place from fall 2019 to summer 2021.
Because the proposed site is adjacent to the Zach Theatre and the Topfer Theatre, the design team approached the project as a way to complement those facilities and create a larger arts district within a park setting.
Various features were added to the planned building to provide multi-modal connectivity between Dougherty Arts Center and its parking structure, the theaters and the Butler Shores Park that all of these institutions would be a part of. The site plan includes an outdoor theater near Toomey Road on the south that connects to a pedestrian path west of the arts center that meanders northward to the hike and bike trail.
Parents traveling distances that make it impractical to come by foot or car will be able drive on Toomey Road to an off-street drop-off point at the arts center entrance. There is a proposal to extend West Riverside Drive into the park to provide a second (north) access to the garage.
Potential Development Scenario:
- Building Facility: 40,000-square-foot two or three-story building.
- Parking Structure: two levels, about 200 parking spaces.
- Separated theater and school drop-off areas.
- Outdoor courtyard space.
- Integrated cultural park and trailhead.
- Connection to Town Lake Trail.
- Approximately 2 new acres of park land, mainly owing to elimination of AISD ball fields.