The demolition of the longtime McDonald’s location at 1209 Barton Springs Road last week really had some of us going for a minute. You’ll find a number of locals on Reddit and Nextdoor mourning the passage of this building as the end of an era, which is probably the least sympathetic variety of Austin nostalgia but also understandable for a fast food franchise that’s occupied the site since 1978 — some of these people’s childhood birthday parties at Peter Pan Mini-Golf ended up here, it seems.
The closure of the business roughly a year ago and the associated demolition permits filed with the city a few months back briefly had us considering the possibility that the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, which technically manages the property’s lease on behalf of the John C. Wende Trust, might actually build something new at the roughly 0.92-acre site, especially considering recent talk of a dense mixed-use residential development on the adjacent shopping center property — sorry, that’s an “Old Austin Shopping Center” — at 517 South Lamar Boulevard by the prolific developers at Endeavor Real Estate Group. (The TJJD also manages the lease for the Peter Pan Mini-Golf tract next door, but hopefully they’re aware that pushing those folks out would be a very different story than replacing a McDonald’s.)
“old austin shopping center” https://t.co/PszzALZ6Ov
— James Rambin (@jamesrambin) June 4, 2022
But despite the obvious suitability of this property for significantly larger development considering its location on two major arterials just south of downtown, we’re here to tell you all available signs are currently pointing to the site’s future as another, newer McDonald’s. It’s not like McDonald’s itself is talking — you might have heard that those guys are frequently run like the navy — but a look at the recent demolition permits filed for this site provides a few clues.
For one, the careful demolition of the main building here also includes a number of ADA-compliant additions to the property’s surface parking lot, including handicap-accessible spaces, access ramps and a painted crosswalk. Why would you build any of that if you’re expecting the property to be fully redeveloped as something else? It’s also worth noting who is doing all this demolition work — Venture Construction, the Atlanta-based general contractors behind thousands of McDonald’s projects across the country, including new-builds and remodels.
Nobody’s willing to go on the record about this, of course, but the nice thing about the property’s state stewardship is that you can send them public information requests and they’re required to respond, even if 90 percent of what you get back is redacted. Our request to the TJJD regarding the future of the property turned up one interesting detail — per the department, the lease for the McDonald’s is up for renewal in 2024. That means the franchisees might wait to kick off construction until that fresh lease is negotiated, so there’s always a chance the deal could fall through and something a bit more useful could get built here, but we’re not holding our breath.
In the end, all this digging around might have been a waste of time — back when the restaurant closed about a year ago, a sign on the door allegedly reassured customers that the franchise was simply remodeling, rather than closing for good. But how can you trust McDonald’s to shoot you straight about something like that when you can’t even trust their own ice cream machines?