The Backyard to emerge as a place where music, food and business converge

Plans for revamping The Backyard were on display Saturday, June 24, 2017 during the groundbreaking ceremony. (KXAN/Chris Davis)
Plans for revamping The Backyard were on display Saturday, June 24, 2017 during the groundbreaking ceremony. (KXAN/Chris Davis)

BEE CAVE, Texas (KXAN) — The Backyard music venue is back with the help of local billionaire John Paul DeJoria, but it’ll look different from how you remember it.

Saturday afternoon developers hosted a groundbreaking ceremony at the site off Bee Cave Parkway. Dozens of people gathered for the event and a performance by singer and songwriter Bob Schneider that signaled the beat is coming back to Bee Cave.

“We’ve already started moving things forward tonight,” DeJoria said. He owns the land and said he “wanted to do something incredible with it.”

The Backyard, which opened in the spring of 1993, was home to numerous Willie Nelson concerts through the years. In 2014, the venue was closed as developer and owner Chris Milam re-envisioned the entire space as a mixed-use development.

Milam joined DeJoria and others to break ground on the project, ceremonially sinking shovels into a small patch of dirt. Spectators milled about, listening to Schneider and sipping cocktails.

But plans call for the space, which will include two live music venues, to be more than a place for a little country, a little rock ‘n’ roll.

“We’ll do all of that,” Milam said, “but we’ll also do the symphony, the ballet, the opera.”

According to Community Impact News, the city approved a planned development district in December 2014 to build two data centers and an energy center so the development can create its own electric micro-grid by burning natural gas in micro-turbines.

The location also has a 125-room boutique hotel and office buildings; Milam said they also plan to build restaurants, a recording studio, condos and parks on the land.

“It’s a combination of everything,” DeJoria said. “I thought if we could build something together… that had ecology in mind and would benefit the community, because we’re here, and not just make a profit, let’s do it.”

The two data centers will provide services, the partners say, to international companies.

Milam said more and more, companies want their could data stored close by, not halfway across the globe; they found a market in tech-savvy Austin.

“We’re already in conversations with some very large corporations,” he said, “and if we could build two more, we would.”

Some people who live nearby have voiced concerns over the years spent planning that the project will increase traffic in the area and create problems with noise disturbances. Developers said again Saturday they believe the impact will be minimal.

“We have two large parking garages on either side of the venue; we have large roads feeding it,” Milam said. “We’re adding new public roadway infrastructure, new signals all the way around the site, not just on the site.”

Years in the making, Milam called the groundbreaking “the end of the beginning.”

“It was ambitious three years ago,” he said. “Now it’s just a lot of work.”

The project is slated to start opening in phases in the fall of 2018.

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