A hotel tower planned for the southeast corner of West Fifth and Lavaca Streets in downtown Austin will seek the approval of a demolition permit for two adjacent properties at 209 and 213 West Fifth Street from the Historic Landmark Commission early next month, according to city documents. The 28-story project by local hospitality builder Merritt Development Group proposes a 454-room dual-branded hotel containing two Hilton-owned identities: Embassy Suites and the Motto by Hilton “micro-hotel” flag, with each brand respectively occupying 268 and 186 rooms.
According to the developer, the $155 million tower will also contain 7,700 square feet of meeting space and approximately 15,000 square feet of retail uses, including a “prominent national steakhouse” brand occupying 11,000 square feet between the first and second floors, with another unknown operator leasing the remaining space.
A permit filed for the 0.27-acre site earlier this year indicates the involvement of the property’s current listed owner, Robert Hersch of local firm Mastodon Ventures, who has authorized engineering consultants at Kimley-Horn to request historic review from city staff for the demolition of both buildings at the corner to make way for the hotel’s construction. The involvement of the Historic Landmark Commission is required due to the age of the current structures, both approximately one century old — the 213 West Fifth Street building at the corner dates back to 1919, originally built as a garage and distributor for Exide batteries, while the 209 building next door appears in the historical record as a used car dealership in the early 1920s.
Now occupied by ping pong-themed bar Smash ATX (f.k.a. Spin), the 213 building’s biggest claim to fame is its service as the home of perpetually-relocated Austin blues club Antone’s from 1997 to 2013. While the recent ping pong bar remodel removed the inexplicable stucco cladding from the building’s facade and restored some elements of its earlier appearance, it’s unlikely that either building at the corner has retained its original integrity after decades of modification — so barring any major discoveries in the historical record by city staff, the case for preservation at the site appears poor.
The developers need to secure an approval of the demolition application before moving forward with a site plan, so the timeline for the project remains unknown — we’ll likely hear more about what’s planned when the item appears before the Historic Landmark Commission at its meeting next week, currently scheduled for May 4.