City of Austin exploring a Dougherty Arts Center move to Butler Shores

The Dougherty Arts Center has been serving the Austin community since 1978, "It's a place where kids can come and take classes, it's a place where artists can display their work," said Austin City Council Member Ann Kitchen.

But the building itself is an old Naval Reserve facility built in 1947.  

According to the City of Austin, that building was supposed to be razed in the '70s.  Council Member Ann Kitchen says it's in very bad shape and it's in a flood plain.

"That building has been there for a very long time and it's falling down," she said.

On Thursday, the Austin City Council discussed the first stages in a plan that would move the D.A.C. to Butler Shores near the Zach Theatre, where two Austin ISD ball fields are now. 

There's a community of nearly 1,500 people who live along the Toomey Road corridor. "It is beautiful.  But the reality is it won't function the way you need it to for after-school programs, it just won't work," said Nina Heller before the Austin City Council on Thursday.

Residents like Heller are concerned about the traffic in the area she says is already bad.

"Those of you that don't understand the situation, come over, I'll have a party, you guys can all spend the day there.  You can stay at my house, you can try to drive in our situation," Heller said.

Heller says there are more appropriate spots for the Dougherty Arts Center in the city. "My belief is just there are lots of recycled spaces that we could be using as a green city rather than taking parkland.  I think we will regret it," she said.

Glenn Neal, Treasurer of the Barton Place Homeowners Association also spoke at the meeting.  He told FOX 7 by phone Friday, traffic and parking are big concerns. He's thankful the neighborhood is a part of this conversation though. He's cautiously optimistic.

He's hoping Toomey Road will get some relief as this project gets worked on. "Our belief is that during the design phase we'll be able to find a better orientation of the facility to ensure that we prioritize Riverside Drive as the place for entry to and exit from these facilities," Neal said.

Council Member Kitchen says what was eventually decided on Thursday was to give staff direction to proceed with the design phase and bring it back to them first.  She says that will take about a year.

As for the D.A.C. move to Butler Shores being a done deal...not quite.  Kitchen says those working on this over the next year will be working with the neighborhood. "What I would say to them is that I'm optimistic that we can solve the problem but from my perspective we have to solve it.  We can't do something there that's going to worsen the traffic," Kitchen said.   

According to Kitchen, Austin ISD says they don't really need the ball fields at Butler Shores.  

As for the "South Austin Little League" ball fields that are just west of them, she says this plan doesn't affect them at all.