Austin Opera House could be revived, but some neighbors oppose it

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The stage is set for a possible return of an iconic Austin music venue, the Austin Opera House. But the possibility doesn’t get a standing ovation.

New rules have been imposed on the property since it was last operated as a concert hall, so the new owners need city council members to change this zoning before moving forward.

“We are requesting the removal of a zoning overlay that was placed on the property in 1986 and which does not permit further development on this site,” said Richard Weiss, architect of 200 Academy.

He said the current restrictions cap things like building height and floor area ratio.

He and the owner of the property at 200 Academy Dr., Chris Wallin, also want to provide housing — some of it affordable — so that the musicians who work and play here can also live here.

“I was able to buy a house in the 90s, and now it’s something beyond the reach of most of the United States,” Weiss said.

The crux of the matter is that the property is part of a Combining Conservation Neighborhood District or NCCD. These are additional rules to preserve unique areas of the city.

“In order to do the housing, we would need to be removed from the NCCD or change all aspects of the NCCD as it relates to ownership,” Weiss said.

On Thursday, they’re asking the city council to remove them from this additional zoning area — the yellow area on this city map.

Some neighbors have expressed opposition to the traffic and noise the project may cause, which would include preserving Arlyn Studios, converting the parking lot into a park, and including a museum inside the concert hall.

“I can understand they’re trying to… do it well, but SoCo and Travis Heights have grown enough,” said Nita Smith, who has lived in the neighborhood for 40 years.

The non-profit group, Austin Texas Musicians, said it asked members on Wednesday about the development of 200 Academy. Ninety-three percent said they were in favor of the development if affordable housing is included. All supported removing the property from the zoning overlay, in both cases.

Wallin and Weiss have yet to say how much of their housing will be affordable.

Weiss and Wallin said they tried to compromise by reducing the size of the potential venue: Austin’s original opera house was 42,000 square feet. The restored venue would be 17,500 square feet.

The team also said the project would bring over $300,000 in traffic improvements to the neighborhood, and they would be required to conduct another traffic study once they came up with a site plan for the area. additional approval.

“As a musician and as a Texan, I look forward to supporting the reopening of an Austin institution,” said Willie Nelson, founder of the Austin Opera House. “Not only will we be able to see a place that is close to my heart come back to the fore, but we will also be supporting the local music businesses that have suffered the most throughout the pandemic.”

Willie said in closing, “This is the Austin we came for. This is the Austin we want to continue.

But with persistent opposition, the final decision is in the hands of the city council. They will address the issue under items 69 and 70 of the agenda.

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