Pressure mounts for Violet Crown proposal in hills west of Austin

More questions are being raised about Violet Crown, a mixed-use development proposed just west of Austin that would combine a 20,000-seat music venue with hundreds of apartments.

Austin Business Journal first reported on plans for Violet Crown in October, and has covered concerns raised by environmental groups regarding the location, next to Barton Creek Habitat Preserve and northwest of State Highway 71 and Southwest Parkway.

The Austin American-Statesman reported Nov. 29 on additional responses to the project, including members of the live music community questioning whether such a venue is needed.

Jonathan Mahone, a member of the Austin Music Commission and part of hip-hop group Riders Against the Storm, told the Statesman a venue of that size would attract national touring acts instead of local artists: “In general, those big venues have such a high overhead just to open up that they aren’t bringing in local musicians.”

But concert promoter Graham Williams told the Statesman he is generally in favor of more live music venues and that while he hasn’t closely examine plans for Violet Crown, it could be a welcome addition to the scene.

The Statesman interviewed some of the same environmental groups that ABJ spoke to about opposition to the project, plus neighbors who questioned the wisdom of putting a large development at that location in western Travis County.

The price tag for Violet Crown is expected to be steep — developer Craig Bryan previously told ABJ the project should cost between $600 million and $750 million. He has not disclosed any investors but the Statesman identified one: Angelos Angelou, head of consulting firm AngelouEconomics and former Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce economic development official. Angelou also told the paper his firm is working on an economic impact study for the project.

According to the Statesman, since the Violet Crown site is outside Austin city limits, its zoning is not the purview of Austin City Council. However, Council holds the keys to requests for environmental variances and extending city water and wastewater services. Plus, the development would have to follow Austin’s Save Our Springs environmental regulations because of the location within the Barton Springs Zone.

To recap, plans for Violet Crown call for a 20,000-seat amphitheater, two luxury apartment towers with a total of 475 units, a distillery and tasting room, a Top Golf-style driving range and parking garage.

Bryan has said that vertical construction could start next year, with elements of the project opening in 2023.

The developer for Violet Crown is International Development Management. That is the company founded by Chris Milam, although it has said he is no longer actively managing the business. Yet Bryan also called Milam “one of the visionaries” behind the project, and fundraising documents filed over the summer had Milam’s name still attached.

Milam for years tried to redevelop a nearby music venue known as the Backyard, but that ground to a halt because of legal issues. Milam had sued the city of Bee Cave, accusing public officials of obstructing the development. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2019 after Milam had left the project.

Milam also ran into personal legal issues issues. He pleaded guilty in December to a misdemeanor indecent exposure charge with deferred adjudication, meaning the charge could be dismissed if he adheres to the rules of the program.