Zach breaks ground on new theater
Topfer Theatre will more than double capacity at performing arts complex near downtown.
Although the rolling blackouts caused the lights at Zach Theatre to go off during a performance-filled ceremony, several hundred supporters gathered Wednesday to celebrate the groundbreaking of the $22 million Topfer Theatre.
"In the tradition of 'the show must go on,' here we are," said Dave Steakley, Zach Theatre artistic director.
The 420-seat venue will be the third for the private nonprofit organization and will occupy the southwest corner of South Lamar Boulevard and West Riverside Drive. The new theater will join Zach's 230-set Kleberg Stage and 130-seat Whisenhunt Stage on the site just south of Lady Bird Lake.
Zach managing director Elisbeth Challener announced that the project has about $17.3 million in hand for the $22 million goal. More than $10 million comes from a 2006 voter-approved bond package, and about $800,000 is left over from a 1985 bond package.
The remaining funds are being raised from private individuals, corporations and foundations. Zach Theatre qualifies for city bond money because it is on city-owned property.
In 2009, Zach Theatre unveiled the design for the Topfer Theatre by Austin's Andersson-Wise Architects. The sleek, 26,000-square-foot modern building will feature a two-story glass-clad lobby and will be connected with Zach's current facilities by an 8,600-square-foot plaza.
Twenty parking spaces will be added to the Zach campus, which already shares an adjacent lot with the City of Austin's Parks and Recreation Department headquarters and as well as people using the hike-and-bike trail.
"We know parking is important in Austin, and we're working with the city to develop more," Challener said.
Construction on the new venue will begin this month. The Topfer Theatre is scheduled to open in September 2012 with a production of the Broadway musical "Ragtime" by Texas playwright Terrence McNally .
The new theater is named for former Dell executive Mort Topfer and his current wife, Bobbi.
After Topfer and his late wife Angela gave
$5 million to the Long Center for the Performing Arts for an 800-seat theater, the Long Center — which is also on city-owned property — scaled back its plans and built just two venues. In a 2009 agreement between Long Center and Zach officials, the new Zach theater will bear the Topfer name and will be made available for use by other performing arts organizations in need of a midsize venue.