Alamo Drafthouse’s Baker Center project will not guarantee affordable housing, heads to City Council for approval


Alamo Drafthouse Cinema will not be required to build affordable housing in its proposed redevelopment of the former Austin ISD Baker Center in Hyde Park, overhauling the original expectations of many community members.

However, neighbors have been working with the project’s architect for a week to draft a private restrictive covenant on the property that would require 25 percent of any potential construction on the west side of the property to be offered as affordable housing.

Austin’s Planning Commission approved the redevelopment plan Tuesday following a two-week postponement to work out the housing commitment. The case will head to the City Council on March 22 for final approval. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema plans to turn the property into its new headquarters.

When AISD sold the property to Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on Nov. 27, the school board’s agenda indicated the proposed redevelopment would include single-family residences, 25 percent of which would be income-restricted and advertised to AISD employees and families with children. Several news outlets at the time reported a guarantee of affordable housing on-site.

“I wish we could do more with this property, but I understand this is the agreement,” Commissioner Greg Anderson said Tuesday night. “I’m excited to see this [project]happen.”

Commissioners and members of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, which provided unanimous support to the project in December, held the same impression until two weeks ago when Richard Weiss, the architect representing Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, said housing was never a guarantee. The discrepancy prompted a two-week postponement.

Speaking to the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association on March 5, Richard Weiss said the language posted on the AISD agenda in November was a typo, as at no point was there any talk of single-family residences on the property, rather just the potential multifamily units.

Weiss said the potential for housing was strong and would probably happen, but there was no way to guarantee because the numbers had not been worked out. After the initial shock settled, Weiss and the neighborhood association agreed to write a private restrictive covenant that would require 25 percent of any new construction on the west side of the property to be offered as affordable housing.

Austin City Council will get the final say when it comes back for the March 22 session.

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Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and USA Today. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
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