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Request for demolition filed at same address of popular UT bar

The permit was filed by private developer Rogers O'Brien Construction and does not outline many details outside of where the skyscraper would go.

AUSTIN, Texas — A new demolition permit could result in a University of Texas at Austin staple being replaced by student housing.

Cain & Abel's, a popular bar located at the corner of 24th and Rio Grande streets, could be demolished soon to make room for a 30-story student housing high-rise. 

The permit filed by general contractor Rogers-O'Brien Construction does not outline many details outside of where the skyscraper would go. It is not clear how many units would be within the new building, but the permit does request the bar be demolished on April 27.

The possible destruction of the bar that UT students have been frequenting since 1991 addresses a much larger issue across campus: student housing. A report released in January 2023 stated that UT does not have enough on-campus housing for freshman coming into the school. Around 40% of freshman in the Fall 2021 semester had to live off campus – all because of lack of availability and the rising cost of living in the city.

The affordable housing struggle can also be felt by students at St. Edwards University, Huston-Tillotson University and Austin Community College. In February 2023, the Austin City Council voted on a resolution to bring more affordable housing for all college students within the city, but those recommendations laid out by the resolution will not be made until Dec. 31. 

The corner where Cain & Abel's is located is surrounded by booming growth and rising property valuations. Along Seton Avenue, an eight-story, 200-unit student housing is under construction. The new building sits right next to a quadruplex that was built in the 1980s and was recently listed for $1.5 million. 

In 2019, the city council approved a new code that allowed developers to create buildings as tall as 300 feet, or roughly 28 stories. Before the new code was implemented, buildings were restricted to 150 feet. 

Although the permit for possible demolition at Cain & Abel's was filed on Monday, this is not the first time a developer has attempted to take the bar's spot. In 2022, a site plan was filed with the City at the same address as the bar, 2313 Rio Grande St., but that plan is now inactive. 

Last July, KVUE's news partners at the Austin American-Statesman spoke with the bar owners, who stated that the lease does not end for several years. However, they said the bar may have to relocate one day due to rising property taxes in the area. 

On Tuesday, Ellis Winstanley, the owner of Cain & Abel's, confirmed that restaurant could be demolished in early May. He said Cain & Abel's is moving to a new location in Austin, but the restaurant hasn't announced the location yet. 

Though Winstanley did not confirm the name of the new property owner or the developer, he did say Rogers-O'Brien is not the developer – the company is just involved with the demolition.

Boomtown is KVUE's series covering the explosive growth in Central Texas. For more Boomtown stories, head to KVUE.com/Boomtown. 

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