Action taken by the Texas State Facilities Commission on Aug. 15 means the vision for a science and technology museum with the largest planetarium in Texas is closer to fruition.
TSFC voted unanimously to send to one of its subcommittees nonprofit organization Austin Planetarium's unsolicited proposal to build the museum—along with a 47-story residential tower, 1,000 underground parking spaces, restaurants, a gift shop and other retail establishments—in a $240 million mixed-use development at the corner of N. Congress Ave. and MLK Jr. Blvd. on what is now State Parking Lot 7. The development was designed to meet the mixed-use and high-density criteria desired by the state.
According to Austin Planetarium, the proposal is the first unsolicited proposal the TSFC has approved.
"Although being the first to go through this rigorous process is difficult, we are immensely proud as well," Austin Planetarium Executive Director Torvald Hessel said in a news release. "We cannot start a capital campaign until we have a lease agreement, and this is a huge step towards that."
The nonprofit announced it had secured a development partner in KUD International, a firm that specializes in large-scale collaborations such as aquariums and museums, in May. Austin Planetarium touted the multiuse vision as another addition to a museum district with both the Bob Bullock State History Museum and the Blanton Museum of Art across the street. Both museums have joined with the Harry Ransom Center, LBJ Library and Museum, Texas Memorial Museum and the Visual Arts Center in a coalition called Austin's Cultural Campus.
Members of the coalition have said they are excited about the possibility to add the science and technology museum and planetarium to the fold.
"This is something that we are excited about, and it would certainly be a welcome addition to this area," Blanton Museum spokeswoman Samantha Youngblood said. "It would essentially be right across the street from us and the Bullock, and we hope it would be a bonus and help out attendance."