With recent state legislation clearing the path for national ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft to reappear in Austin, the fate of the city’s homegrown alternatives is uncertain, to say the least. Well, it’s really only uncertain for one company — after Fare shut down operations this week, the local nonprofit RideAustin is the only major local option left. Considering that the company also recently reported a 55 percent loss of business, things aren’t looking so great.
Heck of a time to relocate, but that’s the case for the RideAustin headquarters at 1203 West Fifth Street. Permits filed back in March indicate that the West Austin site is bound for a remodel and change of use from office to restaurant, along with the construction of a small rear addition adding about 500 square feet to the building.
The project’s name is Better Half Coffee Bar, but permit names don’t always tell the whole story. Better Half Coffee Bar, LLC, was registered last year by Hang Twenty Enterprises, LLC, which is owned by Matthew Bolick and brothers Grady and Matthew Wright — best known as the three guys behind Wright Bros. Brew & Brew, the coffee and beer sanctuary in East Austin opened in 2013.
Is this project for a second location, or a new business? Either way, at least we know the building should look good — its remodel will be handled by Chioco Design, architects perhaps best known for the new flagship location of Torchy’s Tacos on South Congress.
I got in touch with RideAustin COO Marisa Goldenberg about the company’s relocation plans.
“We were fortunate to have the space at 1203 West Fifth for as long as we did — the giant parking lot downtown was perfect for onboarding drivers.
Now that the coffee bar construction will be getting underway, the RideAustin staff will be working remotely out of our homes for the summer, with occasional pop-up hours at various locations. This will allow us to save costs during the summer seasonal rideshare slowdown, and we’ll look for a new place in the fall.”
– RideAustin COO Marisa Goldenberg
Of course, considering the aforementioned 55 percent reduction in business, it’s hard to know if the company can sustain itself long enough to even need new office space — but we’ll probably see an answer soon enough.
One last aside: It’s probably worth noting that the Wright brothers are also co-owners of Hold Out Brewing, LLC, seemingly a brewery that doesn’t exist yet. But wait! It’s registered with the Texas Craft Brewers Guild at 1208 West Fourth Street — that’s right next door to the RideAustin site.
I’m no fortune teller, but between these projects and the Marquis on 5th mixed-use development underway a block further west, it appears this relatively quiet section of Old West Austin is about to see some serious growth.