Plans are underway for a major redevelopment of the former Elks Lodge in South Austin. The family that owns Terry Black's Barbecue purchased the 3.7 acre property at 700 Dawson Road and is planning to turn it into a membership-based club that would include a restaurant, pool and boutique hotel, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Prior to its closure 10 years ago, the Elks Lodge property, which included event space, food service, a bar and a pool, served as a home to Elks members and also acted as a community gathering place that hosted everything from neighborhood group meetings to parties, family reunions, company events, and (once) a feminist water ballet.
The Elks Lodge operated on the site beginning in 1958 and closed in 2013 after its charter was revoked. At the time, national leadership said the local nonprofit flouted its rules, racking up violations such as failing to adequately insure the lodge and failing to report financial information in a timely manner during a probationary period that lasted more than a year.
Following the closure of the Elks Lodge, another nonprofit organization operated a private club at the property. It has been unoccupied for several years.
The Black family's plan for the property, which is zoned for single-family residential, recently received a recommendation for a zoning change by the Planning Commission. It will now go before the City Council. (Non-profits were able to operate on the site, but a for-profit business must receive approval for a zoning change.)
A representative of the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association spoke at the planning commission against the zoning change, expressing concerns about increased traffic, lighting, sound, and barbecue pit smoke. A family representative at the meeting said there are no plans to operate barbecue pits on the property.
The Elks Lodge location is less than a half mile from Terry Black's Barbecue on Barton Springs Road. In 2016, a group of 15 Austin residents filed a lawsuit against Terry Black's Barbecue for negligence and nuisance stemming from the smoke the barbecue restaurant emits to cook its meats.
Plans for the Elks Lodge site are still in the very early stages, said Michael Whellan, an Austin attorney representing the Black family.
"We're waiting to get the zoning. We don't even know if we're going to be able to do a club or lodge until we can get the zoning," he said. "In the city of Austin you're allowed to have a nonprofit club in a single family residential area. The reason we have to switch to commercial-based zoning is we aren't going to run a nonprofit."
If the plan is approved, the redevelopment will be a long process, he said.
"The first step is going to be remodel and renovate the existing structure, which is going to be a heavy lift," Whellan said. "It's completely out of code in terms of the kitchen. It all needs to be updated meaningfully."
The 700 Dawson Road property is valued at $8.79 million, according to the Travis Central Appraisal District.