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The formerly Willie Nelson-owned Austin Opera House is getting a makeover

(Google Maps)

One of Austin's oldest and most historic venues is resurrecting with the goal of reinvigorating Austin's pandemic-battered live music scene.

The Austin Planning Commission voted on Tuesday to move forward with a redevelopment plan that would bring the Austin Opera House back to life, adding housing, a music history museum and retail space around it.

Originally part of the old Terrace Motel in the 1950s, The Austin Opera (or "Opry") House has seen better days. It was revitalized by Austin music legend Willie Nelson in late 1975 and celebrated cultural virtuosos like Etta James, B.B. King, Tina Turner, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and of course the red-headed stranger himself, on stage throughout the 1980s.

(Jerry Garcia's Brokendown Palaces)

Now, the Opera House, 200 Academy Drive, is headed for a new chapter: property owner Spearhead Academy Ltd. is on a mission to turn the 4.6-acre South Congress lot and adjoining Arlyn Studios into a redevelopment with 120 housing units, office, retail and restaurant spaces that surround the 17,500-square-foot Opera House.

The project would put much-needed housing back into Austin's urban core, though residents and planning commissioners have raised concerns that the development could overcrowd the area.

But there's a plan in place to avoid that—project officials said multifamily housing, a courtyard and an underground garage will separate the existing neighborhood from the new one. The new space will also make the city more walkable, directing foot traffic down Music Lane.

The City recommended removing the site from the Fairview Park Neighborhood Conservation Combining District, moving it into mixed-use zoning and limiting the building height to 40 feet, which still needs to be cleared through city council.


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