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Downtown Mexican American Cultural Center to almost double in size

A rendering of the center from the front.

The center will practically double in size, to include tens of thousands of additional square footage for classrooms, galleries, and performances. | Rendering via Joint Venture Miró Rivera Architects + Tatian Bilbao Estudio

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The downtown Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center is about to get a lot biggeralmost double its current size, to be exact.The 15-year-old center in the Rainey Street Historic District serves as a central space for programming, arts, and community resources for Austin’s Mexican American, Native American, Chicano, and other Latinx cultures.

The center’s full expansion has been in the works for more than 10 years. The first phase was completed a few years after the center opened in 2007, but it wasn’t until 2018 that the City Council set things in motion on phase two of the project.

Last month, the project team unveiled the much-anticipated plans for that second phase. Here’s what to expect.

A rendering of the entryway of the center

Project leaders expect construction to begin by this fall, and be completed by fall of 2024. | Rendering via Joint Venture Miró Rivera Architects + Tatian Bilbao Estudio

More space for education + the arts

And by more space, we mean more space. The center will practically double in size, to include tens of thousands of additional square footage for classrooms, galleries, and performances.

Upgraded outdoor space

The center will be extended on two ends to form a complete semi-circle, separating the zócalo, or public square, from a defined lawn area.

The plans also include a tree-lined sculpture garden abutting the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail, and a new snake-themed lookout point with a view of the lake.

A rendering of the trail next to the front of the center.

The plans also include a tree-lined sculpture garden abutting the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail. | Rendering via Joint Venture Miró Rivera Architects + Tatian Bilbao Estudio

Nods to the site’s history

The Rainey Street area was primarily a space for Hispanic residents beginning in the 1950s + officially became a historic neighborhood in 1985.

Distinct aspects of the Center’s design — like the snake-themed lookout point and zócalo — are inspired by Mesoamerican modernism + a nod to the site’s history.

All in all, the city dedicated $27 million to the project, with additional funding coming from the remaining unused balance from a previous bond election. Project leaders expect construction to begin by this fall, and be completed by fall of 2024.

To visit the center, check out their programs online.