$100,000 gift to kick-start cooperation among developers, arts groups

3:18 p.m Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016 Local

Thanks to $100,000 donation, an Austin arts service organization will embark on an effort to bring real estate developers and cultural groups together to address the lack of affordable spaces for the city’s creative community.

The Austin Creative Alliance announced Wednesday that it has launched an initiative to encourage cooperation between developers, city leaders and arts organizations so that performance, arts education and cultural spaces can find homes in future mixed-use and commercial developments.

The project, called the Creative Infrastructure Initiative, will be funded by a donation of $100,000 from Austin financial service adviser Roy Mullin.

The money will pay for staff to create strategies for creative infrastructure development, said John Riedie, executive director of the Austin Creative Alliance.

“We’re trying to address the looming displacement of arts and music venues across Austin,” he said.

Riedie said his organization recently polled 230 arts and music organizations and found that 52 percent reported that they expect to be displaced when their current leases expire because of rising rents.

Fostering partnerships among developers, neighborhood groups, arts organizations and other community stakeholders to preserve cultural spaces and create new ones makes sense for everyone involved, Riedie said.

“We know that creative infrastructure like theaters and cultural spaces add value to developments and to neighborhoods,” he said. “So imagine if the city gave incentives to developers who offered space at below-market rates to arts and creative industries?”

In a statement, Mullin said the Austin Creative Alliance “has the vision and the team to drive solutions that the community can rally behind. I am thrilled to contribute to the Creative Infrastructure Initiative.”

In February, Mayor Steve Adler released the Music and Creative Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution, an array of resolutions to address affordability and other issues threatening Austin’s music and arts communities. City staffers developed a list of recommendations that it released in July.

And Adler recently announced a plan to raise $10 million in private money to purchase and preserve some local live music venues, a plan that didn’t include any arts or cultural organizations.

Arts groups have charged that the city has done too little, too late.

In June, Salvage Vanguard Theater was forced out of its East Austin home of 10 years when new owners of the Manor Road warehouse increased the monthly rent from $6,000 to $18,000.

And, after nearly 18 years of occupancy, theater troupe the Rude Mechs will have to vacate its venue off East Seventh Street next May because of a rent increase of 340 percent.