A large mixed-use project that would include condos, a boutique hotel, and a public market akin to Quincy Market in Boston took a big step forward last week when City Council approved rezoning for the site. But some of the biggest buzz around the proposed St. Elmo’s Markets and Lofts is around the possibility that Saxon Pub might relocate there.
The St. Elmo’s project would take shape on a 9.5-acre site on South Congress Avenue currently occupied by industrial and commercial buildings. Developers GroundFloor Development say they have been in discussions with Saxon Pub owner Joe Ables, and that it looks likely that the well-known music venue will relocate from its South Lamar Boulevard home to the St. Elmo development.
At the same time, a panel at an Urban Land Institute meeting last week discussed threats to Austin’s live music scene from “an oncoming volcano of development.”
Panelists at the ULI meeting, including South by Southwest executive and Austin Music Commission chair Brad Spies, Bobby Garza of Transmission Events, and musician Ray Benson, discussed rising rents that could force clubs and other venues out of the central city. The Waller Creek improvement project and the Dell Medical School are two massive upcoming projects that will almost certainly raise rents in the downtown area, including Red River Street, which many music venues call home.
One potential solution that came up was clubs going into ground floor space in new developments – somewhat like the proposed Saxon move – preserving a home for cultural venues beloved to Austin, and creating a draw for the developments.
Whether that could help existing businesses survive, especially those along Red River, remains to be seen.
What do you think of the role development plays in Austin’s music and cultural scene?