Bercy Chen Studio collaborates with thinkEAST on a new creative hub at 1141 Shady Lane

Permitting is in progress for Shady Lane Creative Studios, a fresh and creatively-oriented mixed-use development in East Austin with groundbreaking planned for March 2018. Developed, designed, and built by Bercy Chen Studio in collaboration with Richard deVarga and Robert Summers as part of thinkEAST, the project includes 7,700 SF of ground floor retail, 42,300 SF of Class A office space, affordable live/work studios, and an existing one-story home being repurposed as a neighborhood café. The spaces are organized around preserving a generous and inviting place under the shade of existing mature trees as an outdoor forum for community and arts events. The conglomerated triangles of the plan suggest the form of the tangram (qīqiǎobǎn), an ancient Chinese puzzle that stimulates geometric creativity. The wabi-sabi materiality of weathered steel cladding the façade romanticizes the industrial fabric of East Austin while the shifting transparency of the perforated screens resonates with the play of shadow and light dappled by the surrounding trees.

Visit to learn more and view floor plans.

1141 Shady Lane exterior street 20170814 1018.jpg

Bercy Chen Studio is an architecture and urban planning firm with design/build capabilities based in Austin, Texas founded in 2001 by partners Thomas Bercy and Calvin Chen. Thomas is from Belgium and Calvin is from Taiwan by way of Australia; the partners’ European and Asian backgrounds form a design philosophy of unique perspectives. The work is influenced by vernacular precedents from various cultures- whether Islamic, Indian, African or pre-columbian, while maintaining respect for the particular contemporary contextual conditions. Due to this unique approach, the work has received national and international attention.

Austin Chronicle article features thinkEAST

thinkEAST has been working with the Design Institute for Health at the University of Texas' new Dell Medical School to bring innovative community health projects to the site. The first ideas and prototypes coming out of this collaboration will be shared as a part of Austin Design Week on Monday, November 7. The Chronicle has a great piece from Robyn Ross about Austin Design Week and the community health collaborations we have been working on at thinkEAST.

Read the full article here: 

thinkEAST Community Vision and Master Plan Report

Projects this large and complex always take much longer than expected, but we are excited to share the full report that came out of our community planning, visioning, and Living Charrette over the past two years.

Thank you to everyone who helped pull all this information together: Fusebox, TBG Partners, QBL Consulting, The City of Austin Economic Development Department, Bullseye Business Development, and all of the amazing interns and volunteers.

Huge thanks to ArtPlace America for financially supporting the Living Charrette and the creation of this document.


thinkEAST featured at Austin Creative Alliance Summit

On April 19th, the Austin Creative Alliance hosted an event to report back to Austin's creative community on the progress from a series of summits hosted by ACA over the past year. The work at thinkEAST was highlighted in a presentation by Ron Berry and Brad Carlin from our partners at Fusebox. You can watch their presentation below. 

thinKEAST End-of-Summer Update

The planning and visioning process for thinkEAST is entering its final months, by the end of 2015 the master plan and financial road-map for the project will be completed and shared with the community. The entire team (owners Richard de Varga and Robert Summers, Fusebox, City of Austin Economic Development Department, Fred Schmidt, TBG Partners, and QBL Partners) have been working this summer to incorporate feedback, strengthen community and stakeholder relationships, and solidify partnerships to make sure our plan is realized.

Since our last public meetings in mid-June, there has been a lot of progress on designing a vision for thinkEASTthat achieves all of your/our goals for making the site an affordable, creative, healthy, and inclusive place. We have attended community meetings with Springdale-Airport Neighborhood Association and the Govalle-Johnston Terrace Neighborhood Contact Team. Our team has met with civic leaders from AISD, CapMetro, Austin Energy, UT, and numerous departments within the City of Austin including District 3 Councilman Renteria. We attended the Spirit of the East Austin forum hosted by the mayor and city staff, and we continue to have one-on-one and small group conversations with neighbors, creatives and artists to share our process and what we have learned so far.

From all of these ongoing community conversations, some exciting progress has been made toward the plan for thinkEAST Creative District:

Affordable Housing at thinkEAST
thinkEAST is working with two affordable housing developers (Housing Authority for the City of Austin and the Cesar Chavez Foundation) to bring as many as 300 units of affordable housing for people and families with earnings ranging from 30% to 80% of the median family income. Our goal is to get many of you that qualify on those tenant lists.

Progress on “La Loma” Trails
Conversations with neighborhood leaders, AISD, CapMetro, Austin Energy and the City of Austin Urban Trails Program have led to some early progress on identifying solutions and alternatives to the dangerous trails that students use to get to and from Ortega Elementary and Eastside Memorial High School. The 50+ year-old paths were highlighted in a documentary called La Loma: or the place sometimes called Hungry Hill, made by filmmaker Deborah Esquenazi, Carra Martinez, and Eastside Memorial students Joseph Sanchez and Isaac Reyes. In August, the film was screened by  the Austin History Center who is adding the film to its collection. The AHC screening was standing room only, and featured a lively panel discussion about issues of access and equity in the neighborhood. Last mint, we had an amazing group of 70+ people help us on a trail clean-up day as part of National Public Lands Day - supported by the Austin Parks Foundaiton. 

Emphasis on community health
One of the most significant discoveries in the thinkEAST Living Charrette was that the entire project is, at its core, a community health project. To further support this thinking, we have met with neighborhood leaders to better understand the health needs and started conversations with experts at Dell Children’s Hospital, Huston-Tillotson University, and the new Dell Medical School at the University of Texas (specifically the Design Institute for Health) about incorporating innovative approaches to community health into the thinkEAST plan.

Improvements to Jain Ln.
Progress has been made with city officials to complete necessary improvements to Jain Lane that will help with traffic and safety in and around thinkEAST. Improvements to Jain Lane were originally laid out in a voter-approved bond initiative in the 1980’s, but never completed.

Parkland and open space designations
Of the 24 acres that make-up the thinkEAST site, more than ⅓ of it (9 acres) will become public open space including 1.5 acres dedicated to the city to provide direct northern entrance to Govalle Park and the proposed swm center. Other public uses could include community gardens, trails, and a community plaza/mercado.

Plans for artist housing and workspaces
In addition to the traditional publicly subsidized affordable housing to be offered at thinkEAST, Fusebox is exploring the creation of subsidized live/work space for artists, an artist-in-residence program, studio/rehearsal space, an art + technology lab, and community cafe on the thinkEAST site.

There is still a lot of work to be done this fall including finalizing partnerships for affordable housing, shaping the community health component, and understanding the financial road-map and impacts of the plan, but we are on-track to share the full-vision for the thinkEAST Master Plan at a public event in November/December 2015. If you have questions, or would like more information about thinkEAST and the planning process please feel free to contact us. We look forward to sharing another update in November.

thinkEAST and Fusebox Festival Featured in Texas Arts & Culture Magazine

Check out this feature article on the 2015 Fusebox Festival in Texas Arts & Culture Magazine. 

"In addition to the dazzling festival line up, the Fusebox team and some art-friendly land developers have partnered with the city to lead an inventive planning process, bringing together the arts community and neighborhood residents to imagine a bright new future for 24-acres of East Austin land with an environmentally complicated past."

thinkEAST Report on Tools for Equitable Development

After April’s Living Charrette we’ve been thinking a lot about the future of the thinkEAST site. We are using community feedback to imagine how the physical site might look and also how it might be owned and operated affordably and sustainably. 

Our intern Julia Barnard prepared a report about alternative tools for equitable development and shared the summary below. You can also download the full report here.  We studied community benefit agreements, community development corporations, community development initial public offerings, community land trusts, cooperatives, and equity-based crowdfunding for ideas about how to sustain and develop the community on and around a site.

Please take a look at these approaches to finance and ownership and let us know what you think. We look forward to hearing from you about your ideas regarding the tools we’ve researched (and the tools we haven’t)!

Tools for Equitable Development Summary (download PDF of the full report here)

Community Benefit Agreements are legal contracts between developers and community representatives that lay out benefits the developer will provide to the community in the course of large development projects.

Community Development Corporations are non-profit organizations that exist to strengthen neighborhoods via housing, workforce development, community-building, and economic development programs. They are also important intermediaries for other organizations looking to receive some types of federal funding for development projects.

Community Development Initial Public Offerings are a tool for offering ownership and governance to low-income community members. In a CD-IPO, community members can buy equity stakes at very low prices and enjoy one vote per person (as opposed to votes proportional to equity value).

Community Land Trusts create permanent affordable housing for low-income community members by separating ownership of the land itself (which stays with the land trust organization) and ownership of the structure on the land (which is leased to the user).

Cooperatives are defined by shared ownership, shared governance, and shared financial benefit. Types of cooperatives include consumer co-ops, producer co-ops, worker co-ops, and multi-stakeholder co-ops.

Equity-Based Crowdfunding is an asset-building and asset diversification (and thus, a poverty alleviation) strategy for low-income neighborhoods. This tool, not yet fully approved by the Securities & Exchange Commission, allows people to buy equity stakes at low prices via online brokerage sites. These equity stakes give holders shared ownership, but not necessarily shares in governance.

thinkEAST Public Meeting in June

The thinkEAST team led a nine-month community engagement process to shape the future of a 24-acre site in East Austin. This process included over 300 meetings with residents, stakeholders, and artists and culminated in a Living Charrette during Fusebox Festival in April of 2015. This input played a central role in shaping an early draft of the full site plan, which was presented on Tuesday, June 23rd at a public meeting at Allan Elementary School in the Govalle Neighborhood.

Representatives from landscape architecture firm TBG, Fusebox Festival, and the City of Austin presented and discussed early concept plans with around forty participants. After the engagement process and Living Charrette, the themes of community health, food access, open space, education & training, cultural diversity, creative work/studio/performance space, and affordability emerged as central priorities (for more information about Charrette feedback, see this page). The plan reflects these priorities by including nine acres of open space including spaces for community gardens and markets, a potential wellness clinic, a mixed-income residential development that will include affordable housing units, a variety of spaces for artists to work and exhibit/perform in, and community spaces for neighborhood gatherings and celebrations.

After sharing the site concept plan, residents and stakeholders exchanged ideas and gave feedback. Discussion topics included traffic concerns, how to ensure diversity in the permanent built environment, and different strategies to ensure we continue to include community in this process. This feedback plays a crucial role in the process and will help shape the next iteration of site plan and fuel additional strategies for achieving thinkEAST’s core goals. The next public meeting will take place in September of 2015. If you or your organization would like to learn more about what's happening at thinkEAST, please contact the project team and join the thinkEAST email list

thinkEAST partners: This public/private partnership includes developers and thinkEAST property owners Richard deVarga and Robert Summers; Fusebox FestivalBullseye Business Development, the City of Austin Cultural Arts DivisionTBG, and QBLRE.

Visit the Ghana Think Tank Cart around Austin

This event is part of Fusebox's 2015 THINKEAST series


Photo by Elise Sibley Chandler

Photo by Elise Sibley Chandler

(Schedule subject to change – follow social media for the latest updates & locations)

April 3: 6-8pm @ The Off Center
April 4:  11am-3pm @ Westlake & Barton Springs
April 7: 10:30am – 1:30pm @ The Domain- near Whole Foods
April 8: 3pm-6pm @ Second Street District near City Hall
April 9: 2:30-5:30 @ UT near Stadium & Visual Arts Center
April 10: 4pm-7pm @ Manor Rd. Near School House Pub
April 11: 2:30-5:30 @ Mueller near Thinkery
April 12: 10a-1p @ Plaza Saltillo near HOPE Farmers Market

Ghana ThinkTank has been “Developing the First World” since 2006.

"Ghana Think Tank Comes to Austin"

Read more about how we are outsourcing solutions to Austin's rapid growth problems and learn about how you can get involved!

Click here to view the full blog post!

Ghana Think Tank   has been “developing the first world” since 2006.  The company gathers local problems from sites across the US and Europe and then sends them to think tanks in places like Cuba, Ghana, Iran, Mexico, and El Salvador.   These paid think tanks develop a series of solutions that can be studied and perhaps implemented in the originary site.

Ghana Think Tank has been “developing the first world” since 2006.  The company gathers local problems from sites across the US and Europe and then sends them to think tanks in places like Cuba, Ghana, Iran, Mexico, and El Salvador. These paid think tanks develop a series of solutions that can be studied and perhaps implemented in the originary site.

Austin Chronicle Article

Fusebox hosted a conversation with artists & creative industries on Jan 18, 2015 at the OffShoot, the first in a series of increasingly specific conversations exploring potential artists' studio and presentation spaces at thinkEAST. The Austin Chronicle's Robert Faires wrote the article, "All Over Creation: Site Specifics Fusebox Festival helps the community envision a new kind of development with thinkEAST" in response.