Austin’s burger enthusiasts briefly entered a state of panic today due to circling rumors that longtime West Sixth Street burger joint Hut’s Hamburgers would close up shop next year. According to the owner, Mike Hutchinson, that’s not the case — but Frank & Angie’s, the pizzeria he also owns directly behind Hut’s at 508 West Avenue, is closing at an unspecified future date.
— keepaustinwierd (@KeepAustinWierd) August 19, 2018
Of course, you’d already know that if you subscribed to our newsletter! In fact, we’ve known Frank & Angie’s probably wasn’t long for this world since we dug into downtown Austin’s most mysterious tower plans six months ago — but since today’s coverage doesn’t mention the plan as the reason for the imminent closure in “several months”, let’s refresh our memories on what we might be able to expect at this site.
Back in November of 2017, city utility filings discussed infrastructure improvements for 506 and 508 West Avenue, adjacent sites directly behind Hut’s and Favorite Liquor & Wine — that’s the charming little liquor store right next door to Hut’s. 508 West Avenue, where Frank & Angie’s is located, is owned by Mike Hutchinson through his corporation Starting From Scratch, Inc. The adjacent land at 506 West Avenue, currently occupied by funky restaurant and bar Irene’s, is owned by LAOHS LP — an entity associated with actress Sandra Bullock, who is involved with several Austin restaurants to some degree.
The utility filings from November call the project 506 West and West Avenue Apartments in different places, and describe it as such:
The location of the 506 West project is 506-508 West Avenue. It is two lots that each have existing buildings that will be removed and the site redeveloped as a 28 story mixed use building with associated parking, utilities and ancillary improvements.
— City of Austin Utility Location Coordination Committee, November 2017
That 28-story count mentioned up there allowed us to very roughly estimate the building’s height back when we first heard about it in November — which in turn led to these nifty Google Earth massings of a tower roughly as tall as the nearby 29-story Windsor Monarch apartments:
So far, so good — but there’s something else. On April 19th, 2018, certificates of formation were filed with the Texas Secretary of State for limited partnership entities named 506 West Avenue LP and 506 West Avenue GP, LP. (If this makes you glaze over as much as me, here’s a better explanation than I could ever write of the GP/LP structure common to private equity real estate ventures.)
The address given for the sole general partner on each of these documents is the same — 100 Congress Avenue, Suite 1450. That’s the address for the offices of Austin real estate development firm Riverside Resources, which you might recall as the developer behind the nearly-complete Fifth & West condo tower directly across the street from the 506-508 West Avenue site, along with plenty of other projects around town. To seal the deal further, the signature on both these certificates is that of attorney and Riverside Resources principal Donald J. Reese.
So what does it all mean? None of what we’ve laid out here is necessarily a smoking gun — deals fall through, plans change, and so on — but all this info seems to heavily imply Riverside Resources is seeking to develop a residential project at 506-508 West Avenue. Unless the design of the hypothetical tower somehow builds around the building currently at the 506 West Avenue site, we should probably prepare ourselves for the imminent closure of Irene’s as well. That being said, I believe its parent company, ELM Restaurant Group, signed a five-year lease for that property when it opened back in 2016 — so we might not see action on this site until 2021, barring any moves I’m unaware of.
I’ve tried reaching out to many of the various parties named here over the last six months to try and learn more about this project, and so far, I’ve had no luck. Still, there’s already a compelling paper trail around these properties, and considering their prime location, it was really only a matter of time.
For now, I’m just glad Hut’s appears to be sticking around — after all, it’s a sin to close a burger joint.
UPDATE: We’ve received a statement from developer Manifold Real Estate regarding the project — apparently, Riverside Resources is part of a partnership managed by Manifold, but is not the majority owner or controlling partner. Here’s the direct quote from Manifold:
“There has been speculation recently about the fate of Irene’s and Frank & Angie’s. Irene’s has a long-term lease and we fully expect them to be in operation for years to come. We are also actively exploring other restaurant concepts for the Frank & Angie’s location when it becomes available.”
Good to know!