EDC talks deals but doesn’t detail creative space investments

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Photo by John Flynn

Thursday November 10th, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

At the end of this month, the public will get the next detailed look at how the city plans to buy up and help a handful of struggling creative spaces, but won’t hear details about the companies that have been chosen to receive city investment.

The Austin Economic Development Corporation, a parastatal entity created in recent years, will make a presentation at the Nov. 29 city council business session before an executive session at the Dec. 1 meeting where council members can approve the proposed investments that are still under negotiation. EDC has made preserving creative space using the city’s cultural trust one of its top priorities, with $19.4 million available from three funding sources to purchase or create creative spaces. concert and artistic spaces that would be operated by requesting groups or current owners.

Anne Gatling Haynes, EDC’s director of transactions, made a presentation to the Music Commission on Monday on the progress of the 14 priority spaces that were identified from requests for proposals from current or potential operators. Haynes said only a few spaces are expected to receive investment in the first round of deals, though the RFP process has been used to identify many other potential projects that could be preserved using city funds, loans , social impact investments or grants that EDC can help. to access.

Even after the city enters final negotiations with the initial sites, Haynes said it will likely be weeks or months before details are made public.

“These dollars are not for a grant program but for real estate investments, which made things much more complicated in terms of reporting, and we have many variables that determine feasibility,” she said. . “Each project has been unique and the execution of these will take time… although we would like them all to be realized tomorrow, we will still take time to get through a number of different logistics around the investment , potential enhancements of spaces , and signing on the dotted line.

Haynes said the assessment of the projects looked at the timing for activating or continuing operations, with priority given to short runways for initial spaces.

Creative spaces have been a city priority for much of the past decade as the cost of real estate has soared, making rents and property taxes more expensive for businesses or nonprofits that operate usually with extremely reduced budgets or profit margins. In 2018, voters approved $12 million to be spent on preserving the creative space. This money has still not been spent and is included in the funding that EDC has available for its cultural trust work.

Commissioner Lauryn Gould said the continued threat to spaces such as Mosaic Sound Collective in East Austin illustrates the need for the city to use some of its unused properties as temporary homes for arts and music groups at risk of closing.

“It seems like there are a lot of city-owned spaces and parks that are underutilized, and the thought has crossed my mind that there are organizations that are losing their spaces in the meantime. Is there a way to facilitate some sort of interim situation in some of these underutilized community centers and parks department spaces? »

Haynes said the organizations under threat were among those being considered for early deals, though an ongoing interim space program is also a priority for his attention.

“Bond funds…provide the infrastructure for this kind of palliative, although it won’t be enough. We have to keep thinking about it, but I’m intrigued by the idea of ​​what interim use would look like.

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