Developer off to rocky start with unpermitted demolition of former Frisco Shop
Wednesday, March 9, 2022 by Kali Bramble
Developers of a new housing complex may find themselves in hot water after forgoing approval to demolish the last remaining fixture of a historic restaurant chain on Burnet Road.
The Frisco Shop was sold to developer Oden Hughes following its closure in 2018. On account of the building’s association with an 86-year-old family business, Oden Hughes initially followed protocol in seeking city approval to move forward with its plans. While staffers did not anticipate resisting the demolition, the Historic Landmark Commission was flummoxed to find the site already razed.
“Whoever took this down knew that they didn’t have a permit, which really is not acceptable,” Commissioner Carl Larosche said. “All they had to do was wait a week.”
The Frisco opened in 1953 as a spin-off of the Night Hawk restaurant chain founded by the legendary Harry Akin in 1932. Akin, who was legendary for his fair treatment and just compensation for his workers, was one of the city’s first business owners to hire Black employees years before passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Confused bystanders wrote to city staff after receiving notification that the application for demolition was underway. “I have no issue with the repurposing of the land, and no intention of opposing anything, but I am concerned that this developer would demolish everything before the permit hearing,” neighbor Tyler Faust said. “If they’re already cutting corners, it makes me worry what they might do when they actively start building.”
Staffers acknowledged that a case for preservation would have been tenuous, as the Frisco had relocated from its original location down the road only 14 years prior. Yet they also noted that the restaurant’s iconic neon sign had been a fixture of the Burnet Road landscape since 1976, recommending in their report that the sign be preserved or relocated. Landmark commissioners bristled to find even this small structure missing.
“I think the sign is gone, too!” Larosche exclaimed. “I mean, in theory, that would have been important to me.”
Commissioners struggled to proceed with the unusual case, but ultimately resolved to take no action on the obsolete permit. Instead, Commission Chair Terri Myers issued a motion, which passed unanimously, directing staff to pursue whatever fines and penalties against the applicant are available.
“The company that took this down, and all major demolition companies that I know of, check to make sure there are permits,” Larosche said. “So whoever did this certainly knew what they were doing. I’d like to see them get in a little bit of trouble for it.”
Photo courtesy of the Frisco Shop via Facebook.
The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here.
Join Your Friends and Neighbors
We're a nonprofit news organization, and we put our service to you above all else. That will never change. But public-service journalism requires community support from readers like you. Will you join your friends and neighbors to support our work and mission?