Lakeway consultant says performing arts center can help city achieve goals

Consultant Janis Barlow addresses Lakeway City Council on March 21 about the viability of a performing arts center.

Consultant Janis Barlow addresses Lakeway City Council on March 21 about the viability of a performing arts center.

Lakeway consultant Janis Barlow said she is “quite convinced” the proposed performing arts center can help the city achieve its development goals during the Lakeway City Council’s special session March 21.

“This [performing arts center] would be the only professional, purpose-built contemporary presenting theatre in Austin,” said Barlow, who is the principal associate at Janis A. Barlow and Associates. “I think it is appropriate for Lakeway. The probability of [its] success in Lakeway is outstanding.”


Citing local community theaters as well as midsize and large theaters including the Paramount Theater and The Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin, Barlow said an 800-seat theater would fill a niche missing in the area’s performing arts centers.

She said the programming of fan-based performers—such as Keb Mo, Kristin Chenoweth, Clint Black and Lyle Lovett—would attract residents from throughout the state who would spend the night in Lake Travis hotels. One of the stated goals of the project is to attract visitors to area hotels. The project would be partially funded by the city’s Hotel Occupancy Tax, or HOT, which also is to be used to attract visitors.

“Flexibility [of the proposed center] is important,” Barlow said, suggesting the project may also house theater for young audiences, dance performances, seasonal festivals and rentals.

She said the 48,000-square-foot center with three stages could accommodate a maximum of 1,200 people.


Barlow said the project would cost about $25 million, which does not include the cost of the land purchase for the center. The project would be funded 25 percent from the local public sector including counties, municipalities and the HOT tax; 25 percent from the extended public sector, including state and federal agencies; and 50 percent from private sector contributions.

Gary Shoemaker, chairman for the Performing Arts Center Committee, said the project would not be funded by a bond package.

Austin theaters raised $40 million-$110 million within six years, Barlow said. The projected time for raising funds for the proposed Lakeway theater is about six years, she said.

Lakeway Mayor Joe Bain said the city has not spent any tax funds on the project to date other than $73,000 of HOT tax funds.

“What we are trying to do with this is to put our HOT tax dollars into it in a manner consistent with state law,”Lakeway City Manager Steve Jones said. “That was [our] goal starting out.”


Barlow said that both the Paramount and The Long Center expressed an interest in partnering with Lakeway on the proposed center because they lack the opportunity to host shows in a theater of the size the city is considering.

“Your income and education levels are in accordance with performing arts center patrons,” she said to Lakeway City Council members.

The Long Center staff said 4,114 residents in the ZIP codes of 78734 and 78738 already belong to its facility, Shoemaker said.


Shoemaker said his commission is considering three properties for the proposed center. The top choice is a tract behind the creek on the Oaks at Lakeway site, and two other sites were considered—on the eastern side of RR 620 and by Lexus of Lakeway. However, the Lexus tract was not likely because it was not of a sufficient size to house the project and the RR 620 site would need consent from surrounding neighbors, he said.

“We’re still looking at what’s feasible and what’s not based on land cost, elevation and what the neighborhood would accept in terms of lights and traffic,” Shoemaker said.


City Council members voiced concern over raising half of the expenses for the buildout from private contributions.

“My No. 1 concern is we find ourselves with something we have overbuilt,” Council Member Ron Massa said. “Over 50 percent comes from fundraising. I don’t want to get to the point that it is the only thing we do and at that point it won’t sustain itself.”

Ownership of the proposed center by the city is preferred, with its operations undertaken by an independent company, Barlow said.

Next steps

The next step for Lakeway City Council would include an analysis to determine the project’s costs more carefully and a study to confirm the fundraising proposal.

Council members discussed the timing of soliciting public input on the project and delaying public hearings until after its costs are calculated and a rendering of the proposed center is available.

“We don’t know if this is feasible,” Bain said. “Before we can explain it to the people and before we start selling it, we have to make sure it will work.”


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