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Check Out Time for Austin Hostel? Not If Some Council Members Have Their Way

Hosteling International Austin's lease could either expire next year or be extended by a decade, depending on the City Council.
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Hosteling International Austin's lease could either expire next year or be extended by a decade, depending on the City Council.

The Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) is seeking to reclaim the land on which Austin’s only hostel sits. But a contrary resolution before the Austin City Council this Thursday may extend the hostel's stay by a decade.  

Hosteling International Austin, located on South Lakeshore Boulevard off of Riverside Drive, backs onto the shores of Lady Bird Lake. As the hostel sits on parkland, PARD director Sara Hensley says her department can find a better use for the space. “We support the hostel and we believe that they are doing a great thing, but it does not meet a park purpose and it does not necessarily meet the need of our community,” she tells KUT News.

Hensley notes the agreement with the hostel was inked in 1988, and since then, “as you can imagine, a lot of things have changed. This is on prime parkland – right there where the mouth of the new [Lady Bird Lake] boardwalk will be built.”  

“It does not serve a park purpose, and quite frankly it doesn’t necessarily serve the residents or community members for which the parks are built for,” Hensley says.  

The hostel’s lease expires January 2013. But PARD may not be able to repurpose the parkland that promptly: an itemfrom council member Mike Martinez on this week’s council agenda would extend the hostel’s stay by 10 years.

The resolution from Martinez lauds the hostel’s high traffic – 14,000 overnight stays with visitors from over 35 countries in 2011 alone – and the area’s proximity to bus lines. It also speaks to the hostel’s “Cultural Kitchens” program, travel classes, and more.  

To that end, the resolution calls to extend the hostel’s lease “for a period of at least ten years with terms similar to the current agreement,” and encourages PARD and the city manager “to examine opportunities for additional concessions to be added to the property.”

Council members Laura Morrison and Bill Spelman are signed on as co-sponsors. With at-least three likely votes, will the hostel stand on Lady Bird Lake, or be forced to ease on down the road?

The city council meets this Thursday, March 1. 

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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