Austin ISD Performing Arts Off-Center

Board approves purchase of Mueller tract for performing arts center

What is "central" in the Austin Independent School District? Trustee Robert Schneider asked that question during the April 26 AISD board meeting when he voted against buying land for the long-awaited performing arts center. The board voted 8-1 to spend $4 million on a four-acre tract at the corner of East 51st and Barbara Jordan Boulevard to house a 1,200-capacity hall and 250-seat black box theatre. The district plans to open them for the 2013-14 school year, though Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said they could be pushed back. While Schneider said he voted in both 2004 and 2008 for bonds to pay for the $40 million PAC, he savaged the idea that the Mueller development is a central location. Since more than half of all AISD students live south of Lady Bird Lake, he said, "It is central, but it's only central if you consider something relative to Georgetown or San Marcos." He also criticized the fact that the district will have to pay developers Catellus Austin a still undetermined annual residency fee on top of the $257,000 yearly operational costs. While several other trustees agreed with Schneider that the site may not be ideal, the general mood of the board was summed up by Lori Moya, who said that, after years of delay, "It's time for us to do this." The site is, however, far smaller than the "minimum of 10 acres" listed as a high priority in the bidding process, and, with space for only 400 cars, departs from the original plan to accommodate 500 cars and 10 buses. Schneider proposed a novel solution to all these problems: put the PAC on some district-owned land in the city center – the Carruth Admin­istra­tion Center on West Sixth.

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AISD, performing arts center, Robert Schneider, Meria Carstarphen

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