A proposed $5 million for renovations to the Sunken Garden Theater survived a City Council vote Thursday to remain on the list of 2022 municipal bond projects voters will see on the ballot in May.
The project will be part of the $272 million parks portion of the bond proposition. Voters will weigh in on five other propositions that are part of the $1.2 billion bond package.
However, the funding for the aging Sunken Garden Theater comes with a hitch.
If consensus cannot be reached between the Brackenridge Park Conservancy and area residents — including members of the River Road Neighborhood Association, who have been vocal in expressing concerns about the $62 million renovation plan — before the May election, the $5 million could be reallocated “for general park improvements in Brackenridge,” Councilman Mario Bravo (D1) announced.
City Manager Erik Walsh confirmed the compromise prior to the A session discussion.
Bravo has expressed support for public critique of the renovation plans, and called a Jan. 24 town hall meeting to listen to concerns for and against the plan, followed by a public survey and conversations with River Road residents.
During the town hall, both Bravo and Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez (D2) voiced support for several options, including down-scaling the renovation plans or removing the Sunken Garden Theater renovation entirely from the bond. Both councilmen then suggested a compromise to include the funding in the bond, but make its allocation flexible and dependent on further public discourse.
In its earliest bond recommendations, city staff had recommended $25 million in city funds for renovations to the 1930s-era theater, which has fallen into disrepair and disuse.
That number was reduced to $10 million after council discussions, then to $5 million based on recommendations from a citizens’ committee tasked with making final recommendations on bond funding.
Walsh said an additional $15 million would be made up by funds from the Midtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone
. Midtown TIRZ board members have also voiced support for further public discussion before such funds would be approved.
Bexar County had initially proposed $25 million to match city funding, but commissioners have not made a public statement concerning the county’s contribution. The Brackenridge Park Conservancy has also promised to raise at least $12 million in funds for the renovation, changes it said would yield a return of a potential $239 million in economic impact for the city.