For close to 30 years, the Austin Museum of Art has clung to the dream of a permanent Downtown home on a block south of Republic Square Park, a dream it held on to even through the collapse of three separate building plans that were publicly announced. But the news last week that Travis County had contracted to buy the block AMOA owns between West Third and West Fourth and Guadalupe and San Antonio streets means that the museum has finally let go of that particular dream. So what does that mean for the museum’s future? Is this the end of AMOA’s pursuit of a new facility of its own?
Not at all, says AMOA board of trustees President Lynn Sherman. In fact, the sale of the land was instigated by the museum’s desire to find a way to move forward on the project that last stalled out two years ago this month when Houston-based developer Hines Interests LP withdrew from a partnership with AMOA to buy the eastern half of the block for a 30-story office tower. According to Sherman, in January 2010, the board began exploring all available property in the central business district – which he defined as being between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Barton Springs Road and just west of MoPac to just east of I-35 – to look for raw land on which a new facility might be constructed or an existing building that might be repurposed into a museum. In late spring, the board also started to entertain new options on the block it owns: offers to purchase the lot, in part or in its entirety, or to co-develop the lot with AMOA as Hines was to do. "Everything was on the table," says Sherman.
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