Hotel development could affect outdoor features at Cheer Up Charlie’s, owners say

Cheer Up Charlie’s owners said Saturday that construction related to the new Hyatt House hotel on a neighboring parking lot on the west side of the property could affect the club’s outdoor features for more than a year.

Owners Tamara Hoover and Maggie Lea relocated Cheer Up Charlie’s from East Sixth Street to the Red River Street space formerly occupied by Club DeVille in February 2014. Since then, they’ve developed the club as a thriving community space and an incubator for emerging local bands. One of the club’s features is a landscaped wrap-around patio bordered on the west side by a natural rock wall. The limestone wall is a backdrop for the club’s outdoor stage, forming a natural amphitheater.

The Austin band Residual Kid performs in front of the rock wall at Cheer Up Charlie's during  SXSW  2015.  Jay Janner/American-Statesman
The Austin band Residual Kid performs in front of the rock wall at Cheer Up Charlie’s during SXSW 2015. Jay Janner/American-Statesman

According to Hoover and Lea, the first phase of construction for the new hotel’s property will include digging 40 feet into the ground to lay a foundation. Hoover says her property manager shared specific details of how the construction would affect her club on June 11. Messages left with the property manager on Saturday have not yet been returned.

Construction on the club’s property will begin on Monday, Hoover said. A scaffolding will be constructed along the rock wall, and it’s not clear how much of the wall might need to be removed, Hoover said. “The landlord’s geoengineer is going to be on site,” she said. “He’s going to basically identify rocks that look unstable. There’s a little cedar tree above that has roots pushing out rocks so they’re going to pull that tree out. A lot of the native Texas brush that’s at the top, they’re going to pull that out.”

The construction company also will build a plywood and chainlink fence along the west side of the property for the duration of construction, Hoover said. She said they’ve been told the project will take 18 months. The project will require removal of an astroturf bench and landscaping along the wall.

“I guess they’re calling it a planter box that we added but really we’re talking about an entire planter walkway that’s really blended in with the wall,” Lea said. She said the club has invested over $10,000 in the landscaping, and customers regularly comment on how they’ve beautified the space. “We’re really stressed out about having to explain to customers, ‘You just told us you enjoy this thing and now it’s being uprooted,'” Lea  said.

Hoover and Lea said they’ve been told the construction company will replace the plants at the end of the construction period and they are receiving a rent compensation each month for the duration of construction. They say they’ve also just received notice that the disposal area on the north side of the club that they share with the Mohawk has been designated a vacated alley and they will have to move the club’s large dumpster that is stored there. Mohawk owner James Moody told the Statesman on Friday he thinks these developments are related to the hotel development.

“We feel like our hands are tied and we didn’t hear about it to very late in the game. There was no asking business holders or stakeholders what they’re going to do,” Lea said.

Hoover said she wants to alert customers to the changes that will begin early next week. The club will remain open throughout construction.”I want people to know that whey they come to the space it’s not going to be the same as what they’re used to from the past two decades of Chances (which occupied the space after a political club and before Club DeVille),” she said. “It’s going to look different than what people have grown to love about that space.”

Hyatt House representatives responded to a request for comment Monday afternoon with the following statement:

“The unique and dynamic culture of this neighborhood is what draws Hyatt to this part of Austin, and we want to do everything we can to be great neighbors to those establishments that make the neighborhood so unique. Along with Journeyman Group, the Austin-based property developer, we’ve worked carefully with the city and property owners to create construction plans specifically designed to avoid any disruption to the local music venues and to ensure the upcoming Hyatt House hotel can make a positive contribution to the neighborhood alongside the existing six Hyatt-branded hotels throughout Austin. We certainly want to ensure the development supports the local businesses near the hotel.”

Author: Deborah Sengupta Stith

Deborah Sengupta Stith has been hanging out in dimly lit corners of the city soaking in the music scene for almost 20 years. Twitter: @deborific

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