Roughly 13 years since the conversation over replacing this beloved community asset began, Austin’s road to a new Dougherty Arts Center is shorter than ever. The plan presented by representatives of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and local architects Studio8 for a new facility housing the theater and art gallery, which is set to replace the aging facility on Barton Springs Road with a new building nearby at Butler Shores west of South Lamar Boulevard, received a unanimous recommendation from Austin’s Design Commission at its meeting earlier this week.
Even with rising construction costs forcing some scope reductions from the ambitious plans we saw back in 2019 for the new facility, the new center’s final design is an elegant and appropriate building for its site, and commissioners weren’t shy earlier this week voicing their satisfaction with the look of the building and the dedication from PARD, the architects, and community advocates for getting the plan this far.
Along with architects of record Studio8, the new Dougherty features work from design architects Overland Partners and landscape studio RVi. The building, which will seek LEED Gold and WELL Silver certification for its various sustainability features, is surrounded by a perforated metal screen — or Brise soleil, if you’re feeling fancy — intended to offset solar heat gain. Along with public art features that will be visible from outside the structure, the transparency of this exterior screen gives the building an appealing modernist appearance with splashes of color and a dynamic, shifting form that responds to the position and intensity of sunlight throughout the day.
The project seeks to be Austin’s Cultural Living Room; an inclusive place where art is created and experienced by all people . . . The project aims to interpret the mission of the Parks Department as a place where people create community through the arts. The Civic nature of the project aligns very well with values of Humane Character, Diversity, Civic Art, Sense of Time, Unique Character, and Authenticity. The Park setting of the building, nestled among the heritage oak trees and connection to the hike & bike trail system along with the buildings outward focus provide strong connections with the outdoors. The council directive to site the building adjacent to the Zach theater facilities further strengthens the idea of an Arts District and provides density and a safe public environment while maximizing open green space.
— Dougherty Arts Center Project Review Application
While we’re very pleasantly surprised by the overall design of the structure, one feature that surprised us is the new center’s proposed parking situation — two levels of underground parking, including roughly 140 spaces. That’s actually not an unreasonable amount of parking compared with the gigantic garage podiums we usually see around here, but the total cost of that garage gave us pause — approximately $9 million, or about $64,000 per space. That’s nearly 1/6 of the entire “all-in” construction cost of $53 million for the whole facility provided by PARD, and illustrates pretty strongly how much parking actually costs.
According to PARD project manager Kevin Johnson, the project is hoping to start seeking bids by spring 2024, with a targeted completion date of spring 2026. Needless to say, we’re looking forward to seeing this one finally cross the finish line.