Austin: Apartments Planned for Robert Rodriguez-Owned Restaurant Site
Feature Photo (above): Jovita’s, a neglected South Austin landmark, will be demolished to make way for a new market rate apartment building. Image: Google Streets.
by Edmond Ortiz
AUSTIN (Travis County) — Currently owned by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, the former Jovita’s Restaurant and Bar property is on its way to becoming one of the newest multi-family communities on South 1st Street.
Chameleon Cos., a local developer, is working to get permits to build a four-story podium apartment structure at 1613 and 1615 S. 1st St. The nearly 60,000-square-foot building will include 41 to 45 residential units, and 8,000-10,000 square feet of ground-floor office or retail space.
Tenants and guests will use street-level parking spaces under the structure. Amenities at the new, as-yet-unnamed, development will include a pool, fitness center and a clubhouse. Its location will provide scenic views of downtown.
Bercy Chen Studio, a design firm with a location in Austin and three other cities worldwide, is designing Chameleon’s project. A general contractor has not yet been named.
A rendering of Chameleon Cos.’ planned four-story apartment complex at 1613 and 1615 S. 1st St. Courtesy: Bercy Chen Studio
Development of the new apartments will necessitate demolition of the Jovita’s structure and a vacant house next door. Rodriguez is part of a business partnership, Chingon International LLC, which bought Jovita’s from the federal government in 2014. The restaurant had been closed by then.
In 2012, federal agents raided Jovita’s as part of a drug trafficking case involving then-owner Amado Pardo, who died before his trial in 2013.
Jovita’s had long been a staple for fans of live music and Mexican food on Austin’s South Side. The neighboring properties that Chameleon plans to redevelop back up to East Boudin Creek.
They also sit next to Fresa’s Chicken Al Carbon, another venture into which Rodriguez invested, and few other local restaurants and small businesses. According to Travis County appraisal records, the aforementioned neighboring vacant house at Chameleon’s project site is owned by Chingon Digital LLC, which is listed at the same address as Chingon International.
More and more redevelopment is taking place in the South 1st District and Boudin Creek neighborhood. PSW Real Estate is building a 59-unit condominium complex, which will include units ranging from studio to three bedroom, and ground-floor retail space at 1600 S. 1st St. That project is right across from Chameleon’s apartment project site.
PSW is finishing work at a nearby mixed use development. The 900 is a 63-condo unit at 900 S. 1st St. involving street-level retail and boutique work spaces.
Edmond Ortiz is a lifelong San Antonian and a 20-plus-year veteran in local journalism, He previously worked full-time at the San Antonio Express-News, and has been freelancing for outlets such as the Rivard Report.