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Developer applies to replace beloved Starbucks, Smoothie King near UT with apartment building

The building is not designated as a historic landmark, but it has stood for decades. The Starbucks workers unionized earlier this year.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Tuesday, University of Texas President Jay Hartzell noted the need for housing for students and staff around the campus in his State of the University address. Earlier this year, Wuest Group – an Austin-based civil engineering, land survey and development firm – applied to demolish the Starbucks and Smoothie King one block off campus and build up an apartment complex in their place.

Wuest Group declined to comment on the project, citing that the application is still going through the process and no plans are finalized yet. According to the City of Austin Development Services Department, the application was received in July and is still under review. That review may take a few more months, followed by additional proposed development, including details like tree planting, parking and information about the proposed buildings.

"The timeline for that review would depend on the complexity of the project and other factors in the review process," a spokesperson for the department said.

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The site at 504 W. 24th St. is not designated as a historical landmark, but UT students regularly spend their time there to get work done. It's also one of the few Starbucks locations in Austin that unionized this year.

"If our store does have to close down for any reason, we enter into something called effects bargaining," said Lillian K. Allen, one of the original union members.

According to Allen, effects bargaining can include negotiations around the closure of the store and how union members will be dispersed to other locations rather than lose their jobs.

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However, Allen hopes the Starbucks stays put.

"I think it would suck. I think it would be really bad if we lost this place," Allen said. "I mean, I'm biased because I work here, but I also just love this store. I love how it is a community hub for students. I love the environment, the location. I love the building. It's a wonderful, historic building. Before it was a Starbucks, it was a local café called Les Amis that my mother went to when she was in college at UT back in the 1970s. The other side that's now a Smoothie King was a little store called Inner Sanctum Records. It was a record shop. And so I just I think the building itself is wonderful."

Many of the employees at Starbucks are students. Allen, who is not a student, said it makes the store location unique.

"It preserves that iconic Starbucks 'third place' environment that the company is so well known for and that they are so passionate about, that we are also passionate about," Allen said. "What we try to create every day as Starbucks baristas are best moments – like, this is the spirit of Starbucks. Café stores are the spirit of Starbucks."

According to the City, the project still needs to go through several processes before any final decisions will be made.

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