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How Will CodeNEXT Apply To Arts Spaces In Austin?

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

When you’re out enjoying some live music in Austin, you’re probably not thinking about the development rules governing the venue you’re in. But Austin’s new land development code, known as CodeNEXT, will have implications for clubs and the city’s other creative spaces. 

Dozens of Austin artists, performers and venue owners gathered Wednesday night at the Canopy cultural center on Springdale Road to learn about the proposed regulations. Shirley Rempe, project manager with the city’s Cultural Arts Division, walked visitors through the basics of CodeNEXT.

“The land development code is the city code and regulation that tells you what you can build, where you can build it, and to some extent, what size and shape that building can take, and how it should be situated on the site as well,” she said.

Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Rempe’s department is in the process of reviewing the code, trying to ensure that people throughout Austin will have access to nearby cultural amenities. One of the major undertakings of CodeNEXT is revising the city’s current zoning. Rempe broke down what types of cultural facilities would be allowed in each of the four CodeNEXT zoning categories.

For example, an outdoor entertainment venue can be permitted in an industrial or commercial zone, but not in a residential or transect zone. A bar or nightclub would be housed only in some transect zones or a commercial zone. Libraries, museums and public art galleries would be allowed in each of the four zones, though they would be subject to different permitting processes in different areas. 

Rempe said city staff are trying to take a nuanced approach to how the code distinguishes between different types of spaces.

“Although, you know, they might all be an art gallery … they take different shapes and sizes,” she said. “So having those more nuanced definitions makes sure that we can fit the right venue, fit the right cultural, creative space in the right place, in the right zone.”

Maps at the event showed what types of cultural spaces could be built around the city under CodeNEXT. 

“[I’m] just curious as to the sort of code laws that govern the city," said Alexa Capareda, a dancer who came out to learn about the new regulations. "Especially with some fair amount of theater closures or rehearsal space closures in the past couple of years that have affected, I think, the art-making community."

Capareda is in the process of producing a new dance performance, and she said affordable venues are getting harder to find.

“People have responded to it in creative ways, you know, having performances at more unconventional venues,” she said.

Capareda is far from the only artist with concerns about costs. The issue was a major consideration in Mayor Steve Adler’s 2016 Music Omnibus resolution, and there are new resources to help. On Thursday, the city is hosting an information session about its new Arts Space Assistance Program, which provides grants for art groups facing displacement or seeking improvements to their spaces. The event kicks off at 6 p.m. at Austin City Hall.

Syeda Hasan is a senior editor at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @syedareports.
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