Drafthouse Eyes New Corporate Campus

Film company has eight figures, no renderings yet for AISD’s Baker Center

Photo by John Anderson

The Alamo Drafthouse has offered Aus­tin ISD $10.6 million to buy the old Baker Center (3908 Avenue B) in Hyde Park, and this week the neighborhood got to see a little more of what the cinema chain is proposing.

Richard Weiss, president of Alamo's longtime architectural partners Weiss Architec­ture, walked residents through the outline plan at the Oct. 2 meeting of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association. The plan is to turn the 4.36-acre site into the Drafthouse's corporate campus; the mixed-use development will also include affordable housing for AISD teachers. However, the core of the project calls for a renovation of the 66,000-square-foot Baker Elementary building at the center of the site, and for the Draft­house to use part of the available space as its corporate headquarters. (The rest would be leased out to the creative industry and nonprofits.) The building already houses AISD-TV; those broadcast facilities could be repurposed for both Drafthouse projects and community media stations.

Alamo Drafthouse LLC's current headquarters are on Sixth Street, just a few blocks from the Alamo Ritz. The company has quickly outgrown its space Downtown, and considers the new location relatively central to its fleet of local cinemas, and close to the Drafthouse-owned Mondo Gallery and its warehouse facility.

Renderings and blueprints are not yet available; the Drafthouse wants to work with the neighborhood on final design plans. Weiss said his team will work with an HPNA subcommittee to further address interests and concerns. Even without specific details, reaction to the proposal was positive on Mon­day night, with the greatest concerns being about the impact on area parking.

This positive response could be good news for the school district, which has struggled to find a good use for Baker since it closed as a school in the Eighties. It tried to sell the site in 2011, but that plan faltered due to neighborhood opposition – something the Drafthouse is trying to avoid through early community outreach. The current timeline would see the board consider approving the contract by the end of the year. If they do, Alamo would handle the planning processes under the auspices of the district, with a goal of moving into the renovated center by late 2018 or early 2019.

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Alamo Drafthouse, Baker Center, Weiss Architecture, Richard Weiss, Alamo Drafthouse LLC

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