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Under the Canopy

New creative complex on Springdale Road close to opening
Robert Faires, 5:30pm, Wed. Jan. 16, 2013
Photo by Robert Faires
Looking up the breezeway toward the Canopy's Buildings 2 and 1, from the front of the designated cafe space in Building 3

What was for years a Goodwill Blue Hanger Store – on the same Springdale Road lot as its sapphire-themed neighbors, Blue Genie Art Industries and the Blue Theatre – is in the midst of a makeover, and it ain't into another second-hand store. The Canopy will be a three-building complex for art studios, galleries, offices, and other creative outlets.

The shells of the old warehouses remain, but their interiors have been renovated and reconfigured by designers with Michael Hsu Office of Architecture into dozens of separate spaces given a communal linkage by a courtyard and breezeway.

On Thursday, Jan. 10, some 65 people turned out to wander through the construction site as part of an open house to generate interest in the Canopy, especially among potential renters. The complex is still a few weeks from completion, but the project is far along that it was easy enough to get a sense of what the finished product will be like.

Building 1 is dedicated to artists' studios, with 45 discrete units, each with its own air conditioning and heating, on two floors. The sizes vary, although most are between 234 sq. ft. and 511 sq. ft., with rent priced accordingly (mostly in the $500-$800/mo. range). The front of the building has been opened up and space in the interior left open to create a two-story courtyard with studios ringing it. Right now, it's still littered with construction equipment, but the sunlight streaming in from above and breeze blowing through from the parking lot made the space feel less industrial and confining.

Building 2, to its left as you exit, is dedicated to larger gallery and multi-use spaces, from 1,000-2,400 sq. ft., with high ceilings. Four of the units open onto the breezeway that runs between Buildings 2 and 3, with metal trusses that previously provided support when the two were joined now serving as trellises connecting them through open space.

The third structure contains just two units: a 1,300 sq. ft. space facing the breezeway that's intended for a cafe and a 3,200 sq. ft. rectangular space with several garage doors along its long walls that can be opened for cross-ventilation.

Walking around, it was pretty easy imagining this as the new ground central for the East Austin Studio Tour – EAST producers Big Medium have been consultants on the Canopy for about a year and plan to shift their headquarters over from Bolm Road and open a new gallery here – and for loads of other creative events of all kinds. The fact that more than half of the spaces have already been either leased or reserved means we won't have long to wait before the Canopy shelters a veritable beehive of creative types. We just need to make sure that cafe space gets a tenant. Anybody know of a successful food trailer that's primed to leap into a brick-and-mortar location?

For more information, visit www.canopyaustin.com.

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