Lakeway report: 800- to 900-seat performing arts center feasible

Updated Dec. 16 at 10:51 a.m.

Lakeway City Council unanimously approved an agreement Dec. 15 for $22,000 for professional services with Janis Barlow & Associates for Part 2 of a feasibility study of an arts and conference center.

City Council to decide fate of second study Dec. 15

Following months of researching the performing arts sector in the Lakeway area and Austin, an 800- to 900-seat theater will best suit the region's market, said Janis Barlow, arts and heritage resource management consultant, during the Dec. 15 Lakeway Visitors Commission morning meeting. Barlow is the principal of Toronto-based arts consulting practice Janis Barlow & Associates.

The Lakeway Visitors Commission unanimously approved recommending to City Council a second contract with Barlow in the amount of $22,000 to develop a viable business plan to identify partners or resources to fund the project, including potential donors; determine types of programming; develop design criteria; and provide an approximate cost.

Lakeway City Council is set to discuss the item at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 15.

Barlow said she reviewed two business possibilities geared toward different markets—a conference center or a theater/performing arts center. However, her report stated that a city-operated, stand-alone conference center is not recommended.

She said that although Lakeway began as a resort, it has emerged as a hybrid city—a traditional community with "terrific amenities and geography."

Creating a performing arts or conference center would be the next step in urban development for the city, Barlow said.

Barlow interviewed stakeholders and Lakeway residents to gain a perception of the community's needs and ensure her projections would be compatible with the resources and culture in the area, including TexARTS and Alisa's Dance Academy, she said.

Given the close proximity to Austin, Barlow said Lakeway can serve as an executive retreat but would need something unique to be successful since golf courses are plentiful in Central Texas. Barlow said a hotel developer would be in the best position to develop a conference center for the community.

However, an 800-seat performing arts theater would be sustainable, she said.

"Austin and Travis County appear to have no public, state-of-the-art, full-service theaters in the 500- to 1,200-seat range," Barlow said in her report. "There is a serious facility gap for a full-service ... theater ... in the range of 800 to 1,200 seats.."

A 40,000-square-foot center would cost about $16 million to construct, and a 60,000-square-foot center would cost about $22 million, she said.

"It has to be a [public/private] partnership," Barlow said of the funding for the project.

Through its programming, a performing arts center is likely to attract support and audiences from the region as well as provide incentive to increase overnight stays in Lakeway, one of the objectives of the project, she said.

"A signature presentation series, unique production commissions and/or a festival would help brand the center and Lakeway as a destination," Barlow said.

A performing arts center would also require a professional staff to run the facility and programming, she said.

One site being considered to house the project is the Oaks at Lakeway, the city's newest retail center under construction on RR 620 at Glen Heather, Commissioner Gary Shoemaker said. The second study, if approved by Lakeway City Council, is slated to take between three and six months to complete, he said. If all goes according to plan, ground breaking on the proposed project is about two years away, he said.


Photo of people attending ACL Fest
City of Austin approves ACL health and safety plan, holds off on final permit

Austin Public Health gave ACL the go-ahead to allow proof of vaccination in lieu of a negative COVID-19 test, but asked organizers to require masking in some areas.

Hundreds of complaints were logged against the Austin Police Department last year related to protests against police brutality and systemic racism. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Police oversight office challenges APD handling of most 2020 protest complaints

Austin's Office of Police Oversight objected to several aspects of the police department's approach to classifying and investigating protest-related grievances.

Photo of ACL Fest
Zilker Park closes in preparation for Austin City Limits Music Festival

Zilker Park closes in preparation for Austin City Limits Music Festival

As part of budget action, Lakeway adopted a lower tax rate from the prior year. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Lakeway City Council approves FY 2021-22 budget

As part of budget action, Lakeway adopted a lower tax rate from the prior year.

Austin city staff and officials are pursuing additional protections related to mold issues in rental housing. (Courtesy city of Austin)
City pursuing improvements to handling of Austin renters' mold complaints

New recommendations from a report launched in the wake of Winter Storm Uri detail adjustments Austin could make to its mold response.

Students at O. Henry Middle School in Austin head in for their first day of school Aug. 17. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD's COVID-19 rate lower than nearby districts after first month of school

Austin ISD recorded more cases in the first month of this school year than in all of the 2020-2021 school year. Still, Austin ISD saw a lower percentage of cases in students than surrounding school districts.

Wayback Burgers specializes in cooked-to-order burgers and hand-dipped milkshakes. (Courtesy Wayback Burgers)
Wayback Burgers coming to Leander; fire kills 75 dogs in Georgetown and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

School in the Hills has two locations in the Lake Travis-Westlake area. (Greg Perliski/Community Impact Newspaper)
Guide: Private schools in the Lake Travis-Westlake area

Learn about tuition and extracurriculars offered at area private schools.

Screen shot of Dr. Desmar Walkes speaking
Austin ICUs remain crowded with COVID-19 patients, delaying some critical care

Within the past week, there was a waiting list of patients to be transferred into Austin-area ICUs, Austin Public Health leaders said.

The city of Austin this summer cleared four unregulated homeless encampments and shifted dozens of residents into shelters. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Plan to house thousands of Austin's homeless people taking shape, but outlook for local success, project funding still unclear

The strategy's first housing benchmark fell short in June, and updates on how the estimated $515 million needed for housing and services will be spent are overdue.

DATA: How population changed in Texas counties between census counts in 2010, 2020

Texas added nearly four million people between 2010 and 2020, according to the latest Census data.