Plans to transform the offices, recording studio and parking lot at 200 Academy Drive into a restored music venue and housing development could get the go-ahead from city officials Jan. 27.

200 Academy is home to the historic Austin Opera House formerly owned by Willie Nelson and credited as a foundational space in Austin's live music scene by architect Richard Weiss. A proposal from Spearhead Academy and Weiss Architecture would see 17,500 square feet of the decadesold music hall reopened as a live music venue alongside a 150- to 200-unit housing project located one block off South Congress Avenue.

“The building that we’re talking about was the genesis of us becoming the ‘Live Music Capital of the World.’ Willie Nelson owned that property, and he not only helped build the cosmic cowboy scene there, but he also ... made musicians all around the United States aware of the music scene that was going on in Austin," Weiss said Jan. 24. "The site is located next to two core transit corridors, according to the Imagine Austin comprehensive plan, and is located less than a quarter of a mile from where our new rail line is going to be. And we can’t be a compact and connected city unless you live, work and play next to the transit.”

Plans for the opera house revival and housing component passed through the planning commission last fall with split opinions on what the project's final shape should be. The venue in particular has drawn opposition from the property's South River City neighbors due to concerns about its size and noise and heavy traffic flow during events, worries that were also shared by some on the land-use commission.

Weiss said requests from neighbors and planning commissioners to reduce the venue's size would eliminate a main piece of history his team is hoping to maintain.

“If we further compromise the square footage of the venue, then we lose the four walls of the original main room. And at that point, yes we could put a live music venue into our project, but we’re not preserving history; we’re not preserving the fabric. It would be a recreation or a tribute as opposed to preservation," Weiss said.

Weiss said the project team met with a South River City neighborhood organization in mid-January ahead of council's potential vote but did not receive any feedback from residents at the time. The neighborhood association did not return requests for comment as of publication time.

Weiss said he believes the project is a fit for the neighborhood in part due to its proximity to South Congress and the Music Lane development, which features much less housing than is proposed at 200 Academy. The project is also being designed with underground parking—a change from the "historically zoned parking lot" Weiss said takes up much of the property today—and with apartments designed as a buffer between the venue space and existing homes to the east.

Council on Jan. 27 is set to vote on both rezoning and the removal of a local land use overlay on 200 Academy to allow for the several uses proposed by Spearhead and Weiss. If approved, a final project plan would have to be developed and approved at the city to finalize its scope. Weiss said he hopes to see the opera house reopened in some form to mark its 50th anniversary in 2027.