Council Gives Long Center Unanimous Go

At their Jan. 13 meeting, Austin City Council members voted 7-0 to approve a revised lease for the Long Center for the Performing Arts

Council Gives Long Center Unanimous Go

With the object of their discussion sitting just across Town Lake from them – and in fact, right in their line of sight through the windows that ring their new chambers – Austin City Council members voted 7-0 to approve a revised lease for the Long Center for the Performing Arts at their meeting Jan. 13. The Long Center had sought changes in its 2001 arrangement with the city to reflect the alterations it had made to the proposed facility in the wake of the economic downturn (scaling back from four facilities to two for now, pushing back the start of construction).

The easy passage was expected, given that the council had already seen an upbeat report from the city manager's office regarding the center's finances. The report, which was formally presented to council at the meeting, assessed not only the Long Center's fundraising efforts to date and prospects for collecting the rest of the money needed for the estimated $67 million transformation of Palmer Auditorium and establishment of a $10 million operations endowment, but also analyzed the center's revenue and expense projections for its first few seasons, comparing them with those of performing arts centers around the country. On every level, city staff found the center's numbers to be "reasonable," an evaluation that clearly heartened the civic leaders. Still, to give the city an extra ounce of protection, City Manager Toby Futrell and Mayor Will Wynn stipulated a few new conditions for their approval: an independent, third-party review of the facility's construction costs and operational projections, plus confirmation of all pledges, with a report on these items due within 60 days.

Long Center Executive Director Cliff Redd understands the city's hesitation, given the potential for cost overruns on building projects – hey, they just finished overseeing construction of the building they were sitting in! But he's confident that a report will confirm that the organization is in a good place and that it won't take 60 days to deliver. "The city is just asking us to recheck boxes we are doing ourselves anyway. We've been staying closely in tune with the market, making very hard decisions to keep this project in budget." He adds that he's "gratified by the report done by the city staff," especially in regard to the comparisons made to the other centers across the country. "It's a very validating thing for us at this juncture."

The council vote helps clear the way for the long-awaited construction to begin. Redd says that once the center gets through its reports to the city and gets some "clarity on where we are on several major asks we have out there right now," the Long Center should be ready to set a date for breaking ground.

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Long Center for the Performing Arts, Cliff Redd, Palmer Auditorium

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