A former Austin blues hall is the center of a classic neighborhood clash.
Driving the news: A proposed development just off South Congress Avenue would revive the Austin Opera House, a concert hall once owned by Willie Nelson. But the project is facing strong opposition from some neighbors, for an austin chronicle report.
The backstory: Long ago a meeting space attached to a South Austin motel, Nelson purchased the property at 200 Academy Drive, adjacent to the present Saint Cecilia Hotel, and converted it in 1977 into a concert hall for 1,700 seats.
To note : Asleep at the Wheel’s “Served Live” and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Live Alive” albums include performances from the Opry House, as it was commonly known.
- Iggy Pop, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Eagles, Patti Smith, Muddy Waters, Lou Reed, King Crimson, Butthole Surfers, BB King, Tom Waits and Nelson himself have played in the space, according to the Chronicle.
But Nelson sold the property in 1988, and by 1992 its days as a venue were over.
- The stage is still standing, with offices built on it.
Developers, who want to add apartments and stores, say they don’t need zoning changes.
Yes, but: The property falls under a special set of neighborhood restrictions which limits its development.
- And buy-in from neighbors for any departure could be difficult to obtain.
What they say : “Traffic, noise, the sale of more alcohol, live music and high-density residences with limited entry and exit routes are inappropriate planning for this neighborhood,” wrote neighbor Jane Thumond. , to city officials last year.
The other side: Opera “was one of the cornerstones of Texas music in its time,” Freddy Fletcher, Nelson’s nephew, told the Chronicle. “This story is really important to me, and if we don’t preserve it, then shame on us.”
By the numbers: Disputes include the size of a potential concert space, from 2,500 square feet favored by some neighbors to 17,000 square feet offered by developers — enough to accommodate 1,200 fans — according to the Chronicle.
And after: The Austin City Council is taking up the issue Thursday. The developers need the support of nine members (out of 10, plus the mayor) to move the project forward — a steep hill to climb given the influence of downtown Austin neighborhoods.