Naked City

Off the Desk

Debbie Kitchen spent a year and a half planning the Austin Symphony's New Year's Eve gala, but dismal ticket sales forced the cancellation of the Palmer Auditorium gig, and now she's stuck with 3,000 party hats. Organizers say they had to sell at least 1,500 tickets to break even, and they had only peddled about half that number, at $75 to $250 a pop. So how did ticket holders respond when they learned the event had fizzled out? Kitchen doesn't hedge: "They were relieved!" the symphony VP of special events says with a laugh tinged with its own relief. "They were relieved they were getting a refund and relieved they could just stay home on New Year's." Kitchen attributes the cancellation to a couple of things -- one, the combination of ennui and apprehension about venturing out of the house on Dec. 31 that's forcing cancellations across the country, and two, Mayor Kirk Watson's millennial music celebration on Congress Avenue. "People just did not want to come downtown," she says. "Their greatest fear had to do with traffic and congestion from the A2K party. Our guests were being told to only come in from the west because of street closures, so people were saying, golly, what's the point?" (see story, p.32). Kitchen, meanwhile, is pondering how she'll unload all the party hats, not to mention the 3,000 noisemakers, 200 champagne buckets, and 350 neon tubes. "I wonder if we could sell any of this stuff," she says. Maybe next year...

Since last week's "Off the Desk" account of an ARTS Center Stage plan for future parking demands at the new Community Events Center and Long Performing Arts Center, ARTS officials are now floating a substitute proposal they think will be more palatable. This time, ARTS is offering a $1 million "gift" -- not a loan -- to the city to build structural support onto the planned parking garage, which would enable the construction of two additional parking levels should the demand call for them. In exchange, ARTS would retain naming rights of the garage -- which would most likely be named after the philanthropist who steps forward with a million bucks. ARTS Executive Director Ben Bentzin (whose last name was misspelled in last week's column) says the new proposal was put forward to alleviate fears that the plan would siphon money out of a limited parks development budget. Apparently, though, neighborhood and Friends of the Parks stakeholders are still cool to the idea of a bigger parking garage. Bentzin says he's hoping City Council will weigh in on the proposal at its Jan. 6 meeting...

Fraternity houses are a fact of life in college towns, but what happens when residents believe their neighborhood's quality of life is at risk when the frat boys want to build a new sports court? That's the question Barbara Epstein has been asking for months in the form of letters to City Council members, city planners, and Delta Tau Delta fraternity reps. Last Thursday, she went before the council to plead her case again, to no avail. On Friday, city project manager Jerry Rusthoven called Epstein to tell her that Delta's site plan had secured administrative approval. "What does this say about neighborhood planning?" asks Epstein, who presides over the campus-area NA bounded by Duval, I-35, 32nd, and 26th streets. But Rusthoven says the city was obligated to approve the proposal because the fraternity submitted a by-the-book site plan. Epstein argues that she and other NA reps weren't even aware that the site plan had been in the works for four years -- until the city notified her last May. To try to ameliorate the situation, Delta has agreed to place a curfew on itself for nighttime sports activities, says Rusthoven. Don't expect the NA to let the matter rest, however.

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    Northwest Austin neighbors of Hyde Baptist Church's Quarries property map out a plan for fighting massive development in their neighborhood.

    Naked City

    The Planning Commission votes to recommend a renegotiation of a zoning overlay around the Hyde Park Baptist Church, which wants to build a five-story parking garage in the neighborhood, and a temporary halt on major construction in areas that have neighborhood plans in development. The measures go to council on Thursday.
  • Naked City

    Tarrytown residents wonder whether the city will ever finish construction on water mains and sewers in their neighborhood; the city says it's just doing what it has to do.

    Naked City

    Beverly Sheffield, the longtime director of the Parks and Recreation Dept. and a local visionary and civic leader, has died.

    Naked City

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

debbie kitchen, austin symphony, a2k, kirk watson, arts center stage, palmer auditorium, parking garage, eastwoods neighborhood association, delta tau delta.

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