After confusion about whether property the Alamo Drafthouse bought from the Austin Independent School District would include affordable housing, the project's architect confirmed Wednesday it's in the plans.
Richard Weiss said Alamo will use the historic school in Hyde Park for its headquarters and build a new building on the back part of the lot. Alamo bought the Baker Center, which AISD had been using for administrative purposes, for $10 million in November.
“Everything above the ground floor can only be residential,” Weiss said. “So we know we are going to build a building back there and that locks in the residential component.”
Weiss said the housing will be apartments or condo units and that Alamo is still deciding whether they'll be rentals.
Putting affordable housing on the property was something AISD sought when it sold the property. It also wanted the units to be marketed first to AISD teachers and families.
Weiss said Alamo plans to make a quarter of any housing units affordable. The definition of affordable – just how much those units will cost – is still being worked out, though.
Affordability came up at the Austin City Council last week as members discussed the property's zoning.
Council Member Greg Casar said this is a rare opportunity for the council, because land in the city is scarce. He said he wants the price tag on that affordable housing to be as low as possible.
“Seeing opportunities for public land go by without the chance to bring economic and racial integration to those areas is just a missed opportunity,” Casar said. “I just want to not miss it while still achieving AISD’s and Alamo’s goals.”
Weiss said Alamo plans to seek a historic designation for the property and that the movie theater chain is committed to working with the neighborhood association to make sure it serves the larger community as well.
“Alamo is not looking at this project as a development project,” he said. “They’re looking at it as a project where they can be a steward for a building that’s been there for 107 years, and they want to keep there as part of the fabric of the neighborhood.”
The council will re-visit the discussion as it finalizes zoning for the property.