Potential solution emerges for east Austin artists losing studio space

A developer offers studio space in exchange for additional height to its building

Cielo Property Group has plans to build a new office building at 1600 E. 4th St. (KXAN Photo/Yoojin Cho)
Cielo Property Group has plans to build a new office building at 1600 E. 4th St. (KXAN Photo/Yoojin Cho)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Cielo Property Group is heading to the Austin City Council Thursday with a proposal they hope will pass. Cielo has plans to build a 5-story office building at 1600 E. 4th St. in east Austin.

Under the current zoning law, a property at that location can be 60 ft. tall maximum. Cielo wants to go higher to 72 ft., which will require approval from the City Council.

Cielo Property Group’s co-CEO Bobby Dillard told KXAN Tuesday, when the company presents its plan, it won’t be a one-sided demand. Dillard said, if the additional height is approved, Cielo will lease 9,000 square feet on the ground floor to artists at deeply discounted rates. According to Dillard, “It’s going to be less than 50 percent of market.”

“If we can get another floor, that puts the money in the budget so we can support the artists,” Dillard said. He explained this is a win-win solution for east Austin.

Just last year, more than 40 artists at the Pump Project Art Complex on Shady Lane were told their building is being sold, making the future of their affordable studio space unclear.

“It’s a little disheartening,” director of Pump Project Joshua Green said. “Even if somebody buys it and wants to keep us in the building it’s very uncertain if we can afford a rental increase, which will at least go up by 50 percent or more.”

According to Green, Pump Project isn’t the only studio space being priced out of east Austin. “I know studios on Bolm Road that’s probably going to close in April,” he said.

Green told KXAN he wants to review every single option out there before making a final decision on the future of the Pump Project Art Complex.

In the meantime, Green’s headed to the Austin City Council meeting Thursday. The same day the Council hears Cielo Property Group’s request to build higher, it will also take up a separate resolution that artists hope will pass.

The resolution asks the city manager to take steps to increase the availability and affordability of “creative spaces” throughout Austin.

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