Austin Playhouse Purchases 2.8-Acre Lot on East Anderson Lane
On Wednesday, April 3, 2019, Austin Playhouse closed on a 2.8 acre site at 1717 E. Anderson Lane, along the 183 frontage road in Northeast Austin. The building site will be developed into a home for the veteran professional theatre as well as serving as a rental facility for other arts organizations. The purchase price of $1,280,664 was primarily funded by a $1 million anonymous contribution and a bridge loan from Comerica Bank.
Austin Playhouse relaunched their building campaign in November 2018 after securing a $1 million lead contribution. The campaign goal is to raise $700,000 by completion of construction, with the campaign continuing until the construction loan is repaid. While Austin Playhouse has waited to begin actively soliciting contributions until a site was secured, more thanb $50,000 has already been contributed since the announcement of the $1 million gift.
Austin Playhouse’s architect is Scott Ginder of Forge Craft Architecture. Bids have been received from civil engineers and one will be engaged next week. The permitting process is expected to last up to six months with ground breaking estimated for late 2019. Austin Playhouse will remain in their ACC Highland location for the 2019-2020 season. Their current lease with ACC Highland is through June 2021.
Austin Playhouse Artistic Director Lara Toner Haddock says, “Two years ago we began conversations with our lead donors and started actively searching for a site that would serve Austin Playhouse and the arts community. In late 2018 we secured the $1 million commitment and the loan from Comerica bank. The site on East Anderson is a great site today and with Austin’s projected growth in the area is going to be an amazing site in a few years.
"Its location on the 183 frontage road means it’s highly visible and accessible. It’s just north of the 183 corridor renovation project, which will see dramatic mobility improvements in the area. The massive redevelopment of the former Motorola campus is just a few minutes further south. It has enough buildable land for our current project with ample parking and the possibility for future expansion.”
Austin Playhouse is currently in the middle of its 19th season. For its premiere season, AP performed on the campus of Concordia University. From 2002 to 2011, they occupied a renovated space at Penn Field in South Austin. In 2011, rent was increased to $16,000 a month. After one season in a temporary facility at the Mueller redevelopment, AP built a new venue at Austin Community College’s Highland Campus, renovating two storefronts to become the current Austin Playhouse.
Producing Artistic Director Don Toner has extensive experience developing theatre spaces in Austin. He served as project manager for the $3 million+ renovation of the State Theatre in 1999. He also led construction efforts at AP’s Penn Field space, the temporary facility at Mueller, and ACC Highland. After 32 years of developing temporary homes in Austin, Toner says “I’m looking forward to building a home for Austin Playhouse where Austin artists will thrive and emerging groups will have a secure space to develop their work.”
With the ongoing venue shortage in Austin, AP embraces the opportunity to build a space that will be used by other arts organizations. The current plans have two venues: a 227-seat main stage and a 99-seat second stage. AP is exploring the possibility of adding an intimate black box space as well.
The land purchase is a giant step on the road to realizing the dream of a permanent, sustainable home for Austin Playhouse.
Austin Playhouse is a professional theatre in its 19th season. Under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Don Toner and Artistic Director Lara Toner Haddock, Austin Playhouse has grown from a three-play season on the campus of Concordia University, to a year-round operation producing an average of six mainstage plays a year along with two theatre for youth productions and a new play festival. Austin Playhouse is currently performing at the Austin Community College Highland campus.