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AUSTIN-Ballet Austin is buying the Aus-Tex Printing and Mailing Co. building in downtown Austin. The nonprofit organization will use the building, to be called the Dance Education Center, for offices, classes, rehearsal and performances.

The move adds another piece to a gathering arts district on the west side of the CBD. The Austin Museum of Art is to build on a city block next to the Aus-Tex building and the Long Center for the Performing Arts is set for a spot just across Town Lake.

While fund-raising for those facilities has slowed because of the slow economy, the downturn became an advantage for Ballet Austin. It paid $3.5 million for the 28,000-sf building, about $700,000 over its assessed market value as determined by the Travis Central Appraisal District.

“We secured this property because the down market kept the private sector from bidding up the price,” said Cookie Rodriguez, the ballet’s executive director, in announcing the purchase of 501 W. Third St. She said other prospective buyers probably would have torn down the building. That’s right, according to Steven Galloway with Carpenter & Associates Inc. He and Jim Carpenter brokered the deal. Other interest in the building came from those interested in tearing it down and putting up a residential property such as lofts. “They were just interested in the dirt,” Galloway tells GlobeSt.com.

John Eastty, Aus-Tex’s owner, however, preferred to see the building remain standing. “He built that building and really likes it,” Galloway says.

Ballet Austin officials needed a bit of encouragement to check out the building, but they were sold once they did. “When they walked in they said, ‘We probably couldn’t design one better for our needs,’” Galloway recalled.

Aus-Tex is moving to the former Celis Brewery in the Walnut Creek Business Park in northeast Austin. The move should be complete by the end of the year, but Ballet Austin won’t be rehearsing “The Nutcracker” at the downtown building quite yet. It plans to take a couple years to remodel the building. In the meantime, it will use the building for storage and provide space to other nonprofits, such as the staff of the Long Center. The ballet currently is housed in a former fire station in Central Austin and three other rented spaces.

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