Odd Meter Collective development on Travis Heights Blvd
Last month, we heard from Robert Wells about his vision for building a Music collective living and studio space on his family’s 2 lot property on Travis Heights Blvd (see picture below). Robert answered some questions from SRCC members and will keep us posted on his progress with his project.
From Robert Wells: In addition to the questions you posed, I’d like to emphasize that we are in the very initial stages of planning, so there are things I don’t know and things that may change. My priority in all of this is to create something that is a benefit to the musicians of Central Texas while also being entirely in step with the neighborhood in which I grew up and which my family has called home for over a century (my grandmother was born in a house on South First back at the dawn of the 1900’s). As plans evolve, we will always put the good of the community first.
I’d also like to take a chance to emphasize that I am not alone in this. Odd Meter Collective isn’t just some nom de guerre. We are a nonprofit corporation as filed with the State of Texas. Federal 501(c)(3) status is still pending. The board of the Collective are Jana Horn (singer/songwriter), Miguel Ojeda (multi-instrumentalist in the band Migrant Kids), Lance Queton (multimedia producer), and myself (guitarist and choral singer). Coming from the worlds of folk, metal, pop, and classical music gives us a great diversity of views, but I think that is what makes us suited to the task of finding and aiding creative forces from all walks of life and styles of music. Over the next decade, we anticipate expanding the Odd Meter vision into other parts of Austin, including both more musician housing and new recording studio spaces. We hope that our efforts in this neighborhood I call home will lead the way.
- Would this property be sold or given to the non-profit transferring the deed to the collective?At this time, the plan is to have a long-term lease of 2006 Travis Heights to Odd Meter Collective at a rate that will cover the tax burden on the property. That said, if the benefits of transfer of title are significant as we go forward, such transfer isn’t ruled out. That is among the issues being discussed with the relevant planning authorities.
- Is it the Collective’s intention to take this property off the tax rolls?
Simply put, it seems unlikely that the taxing authorities would be willing to remove the property in that way. However, I am hopeful that we can find a way with the City of Austin and Travis County to reduce the tax burden. Any reduction in the cost of operations translates directly into a reduction of the financial burdens on our residents. As stated at the meeting, our hope is that we can be a zero-cost residency program as will be discussed further below.
- Will there be a recording studio or practice space and if so what measures will be taken to ensure noise control?
Yes among the main objectives is to have onsite practice space. As with most everything else, the exact nature of that space is still in the planning stages. We are consulting with an architect experienced in the music industry and are specifically working to limit the potential for disturbances by placing the rehearsal space to the inside of the lot relative to residential space and extensive use of environmentally friendly sound absorbing materials. Other musicians, rehearsal spaces, and recording facilities around Austin have successfully integrated into residential areas without bothering their neighbors, and we hope to raise the bar on that. Since the space is being built from the ground up with the intent of limiting noise, we believe that we can go further than most in meeting that goal. In addition, we of course will require residents to comply with noise ordinances and to restrict practice hours accordingly. This is not ever going to be a music venue nor any sort of raucous party facility. Contrary to popular conception, successful musicians are focused and intent professionals, not party animals. We do not anticipate nor will we allow residents to ignore the needs of their neighbors.
- How you musicians be chosen? Will there be an application process?
The rental process is still being planned, but is largely in order. Especially if this is a zero-cost residency, there will need to be selection process as demand will certainly outstrip supply.Odd Meter seeks to find those with a potential to create real beauty and change the world for the better. The application process will seek to find those who are in a position to best utilize their time with us for that purpose. It is not intended as an option for amateurs and hobbyists, but for those who are within sight of creating something wonderful and need an opportunity to do so without the constraints of living in one of the most expensive cities around. Odd Meter is not tied to nor designed to serve any genre or movement in particular. In fact, we are seeking as diverse a community as possible. We envision classical composers and graduate students in music to be living side by side with rock guitarists, electronic musicians, and singer/songwriters. While a classical violinist or blues singer may create good music on their own, we hope that by working together and learning from each other, they can make something great.Even if we cannot reach the goal of zero-cost housing immediately, the process will be similar. It is expected that there will be a lot of interest in living with Odd Meter, and we are preparing to handle that demand. Applications along with samples of works will be submitted through our website and reviewed by our board, potentially with the input of advisors and donors. As described above, our board is very diverse itself, and we hope that we can lead the way to building a new sort of community. If we achieve our zero-cost goal, then it is anticipated that we will have 1 year residencies much as one finds in the academic world. During that time, artists will work to achieve the goal upon which they applied, whether that be composing an opera, recording an album, or the creation of some as yet unimagined work of art.
- What is the size of the lot/lots and can you explain the housing arrangements in more detail.
At this time, we anticipate the first Odd Meter housing effort to be built at 2006 Travis Heights Blvd. That lot is just under 7000 square feet. The only improvements currently in place on the lot are a very large garage in a sorry state of disrepair as well as several stone outbuildings originally used for storage. The garage will need to be demolished, but we intend to reuse the wood as the interior walls of our onsite rehearsal space. The new construction will only cover a slightly larger area than the existing garage and driveway. As shown in the diagram, we also hope to construct a semicircular driveway that will virtually eliminate the need for street parking for our residents. There will be no need for a zoning variance if we construct only a standard single family dwelling. However, we are seeking to create a duplex or triplex to allow for more residents. This would require a slight variance due to the square footage of the lot, but it is entirely in keeping with our neighbors as duplexes already exist on our block on similarly sized lots. The driveway will also require a variance, but since it is designed to keep the street clear of cars, we do not anticipate resistance. As things stand, the two lots contain only one very small, one bedroom, one and a half bathroom house on the 2008 half. The tax burden of such a large property in the heart of South Austin is too great for anyone to justify living there alone. Quite frankly, the only alternative I can see is the sale of my family home. To be blunt, it is unlikely that future developers will consider the well being of the neighborhood as Odd Meter is doing. The most likely scenario is that you will have just one (or even two) more among the many multi-million dollar mansions in town. I don’t want that, and I don’t think many of my neighbors want that. If we as a community want to keep our neighborhood the way it is and want to keep the music going in Austin, this is the best way to do that.