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Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
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Planetarium proposal calls for $240 million, 47-story tower near Capitol



By Gary Dinges AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Published: 8:19 p.m. Sunday, May 27, 2012

A local nonprofit group, with help from a big-name developer with projects across the globe, is shooting for the stars, pitching plans for a $240 million, 47-story tower near the Texas Capitol that would include a planetarium, science museum and technology center.

It would also be home to a mix of shops, restaurants and residences, plus more than 1,000 underground parking spaces.

Some funding is already lined up, developers said, but more will be needed to complete the project.

The site being considered for the 801,800-square-foot building —which if built as planned would be second only to the 56-story Austonian in the city's skyline — is a state-owned parking lot at North Congress Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Plans call for work to start as soon as late 2014, with completion expected in late 2016.

Developer KUD International, which has offices in Long Beach, Calif.; Orlando, Fla.; and New York, and Austin Planetarium, a group founded almost a decade ago as Friends of the Austin Planetarium, predict the project will attract more than 600,000 visitors each year with an estimated annual economic impact of $60 million.

Almost 700 full- and part-time jobs would be created by the project, they say.

"It's highly unusual what we're doing," Torvald Hessel, executive director of Austin Planetarium, told the American-Statesman. "Usually a planetarium is a city or a university project, but this is truly a grass-roots group of people saying, ‘We want this.' "

Austin Planetarium and KUD have made a proposal for a ground lease for the lot near the Bullock Texas State History Museum and the Blanton Museum of Art, Hessel said, and the offer is being evaluated by the Texas Facilities Commission.

Although the group has looked at other sites, Hessel said, its focus right now is exclusively on the state lot.
http://www.statesman.com/business/r...l-calls-for-240-million-47-story-2378684.html
 

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Impacts News said:
Museum district poised for expansion
by Macy Hurwitz
June 22, 2012

Planetarium project first envisioned in 2003 gets development partner

Central Austin’s museum district could grow even larger if the Austin Planetarium organization and development partner KUD International LLC are awarded the lease they requested from the Texas Land Commission on property across the street from the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and the Blanton Museum of Art.

Austin Planetarium announced plans May 26 for the $240 million, 806,000-square-foot development proposed to occupy the southeastern block at MLK Boulevard and Congress Avenue. The project would fulfill the state’s written goals for mixed-use development with a planetarium, science and technology museum, museum gift shops, a 47-story residential tower, retail space and restaurants.

Moving forward

Austin Planetarium Executive Director Torvald Hessel said he is hopeful that the process with the Texas Land Commission could be complete within a year, and KUD Executive Vice President Tom Winter said the project should take between three and four years to build, meaning it could be complete in 2016 at the earliest. Winter said he is excited about the potential cultural impact the project could have.
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