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Museum negotiating on museum-condo project

Famous architectural firm would design new home for museum.

By Shonda Novak, Jeanne Claire van Ryzin


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Austin could get a second downtown building designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli, an internationally known architectural firm.

The Austin Museum of Art is negotiating with local developer Tom Stacy to develop a museum and adjoining condominium project to be designed by the architectural firm founded by Cesar Pelli.

The firm also is designing a 47-story, mixed-use high-rise that Stacy plans to build at Fifth Street and Congress Avenue.

In October, the museum invited more than 40 developers to become potential partners on a mixed-use development that would give the museum a permanent home downtown.

The museum narrowed the list to three. A spokesman declined to name the other top contenders because there's not yet a final agreement with Stacy.

Museum officials, however, are optimistic.

"We have total confidence in Tom," said David Wyatt, the museum's director of marketing and public relations.

Executive Director Dana Friis-Hansen said the museum is "excited about the prospect" of a deal with Stacy.

"This is just a small step forward in our strategic plan," Friis-Hansen said. "Right now we're doing our due diligence to see if a relationship is possible."

The museum has been housed since 1995 at 823 Congress Ave., which Stacy owns. Friis-Hansen said Stacy has been "a very good landlord, especially during the difficult times we had during the economic downturn."

The new project would be built on museum-owned land bounded by Third, Fourth, Guadalupe and San Antonio streets. Pelli Clarke Pelli has done some preliminary conceptual drawings, but the museum is not yet ready to release them. Wyatt said the proposed development "is going to be a unified project on the whole block."

"It's not going to be generic condos adjacent to our (museum) building," he said. "It will be a connected structure, all integrated on the ground level."

The condo building would occupy about half of the lot, Wyatt said.

The financial terms of the deal, the size of the condo part and other details have yet to be worked out.

Stacy declined to comment, saying through a spokeswoman that he preferred any comment to come from museum officials at this stage.

The project would realize a longstanding dream for the museum, which has had to cancel two previous projects

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