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Project Spotlight: Clive Bar (Austin, TX)

Experience the extraordinary evolution of Clive Bar, located in the heart of Austin, TX’s, Rainey Street Historic District! From a historic bungalow to a stunning multi-level venue, Clive Bar’s story is as unique as its eclectic ambiance.

Nestled within the vibrant heart of Austin’s Rainey Street Historic District, Clive Bar stands as a testament to the city’s dynamic evolution. This iconic establishment has a story that’s as unique as its eclectic ambiance. Clive Bar was founded in 2009 by Dunlap ATX, an Austin-based real estate developer renowned for its portfolio of bars that toe the line between relaxation and sophistication. It found its home within a bungalow dating back to 1926 and has played a pivotal role in the transformation of Rainey Street from a once quiet neighborhood into a bustling nightlife destination.

Clive Bar 1

Modest in size at its origin, Clive’s vision was to become a versatile venue capable of hosting musical performances and large gatherings while preserving the neighborhood’s historical charm. Integral to this vision was the decision to maintain the low-key and welcoming atmosphere imbued by the historic buildings on the property and around which Dunlap has built their brand. This vision was met in the preservation of Clive Bar’s historic bungalow, as well as the tiny but beloved mezcal bar at the rear of the property known as Bar Ilegal.

Not lacking in confidence, Dunlap ATX chose to embark on an ambitious project that called for the construction of a new structure atop the existing buildings, all while keeping Clive Bar in operation. With the help of WGI’s expertise in site development planning, North Arrow Studio for architectural guidance, and the structural team at WGI, they were able to navigate the intricate web of city regulations, permits, and neighborhood restrictions. The project’s execution proved challenging, however, with the unexpected arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic only further complicating matters.

Clive Bar 2

As a result, Clive Bar closed temporarily during the two years of construction. When it reopened in January of 2022, it welcomed back patrons eager to return to a sense of normalcy, offering them a much-anticipated experience in what some have called the most unique structure of its kind in Austin, TX. The structure’s new design features a third-floor platform suspended on slender steel stilts, creating an intriguing canopy over the existing buildings. This platform supports wood-framed enclosures for a secondary bar, back-of-house spaces, and restrooms. The design also incorporates a steel mezzanine hanging just above the bungalow’s roof, with new stair and elevator shafts, including a playful mid-height offset stair tower, further enhancing the establishment’s appeal.

WGI’s Construction Manager, Nick Denson, described working on the Clive Bar project as:

“A fun owner/client and contractor relationship – The client chose his team very carefully, giving us the opportunity to work with friends, family of friends, and like-minded professionals from throughout the area. I often frequented Rainey Street in years past, and it was truly rewarding to work on a project for what sits as one of the few remaining bars from the area’s origins.”

Clive Bar 3

One of Dunlap ATX’s Program Managers went on to explain that the development team aimed to make the structure appear as if it had been “thrown up over a weekend.” Exposed steel beams, diagonal braces ingeniously doubling as downspouts for roof drains, and a towering concrete wall along the north property line all added to the establishment’s unique aesthetic.

Clive Bar 4

However, behind this seemingly haphazard design was an intricate and meticulous planning process. Careful consideration was given to ensure minimal impact on existing structures, with steel piles threaded between buildings and property lines. Access negotiations with adjacent properties were vital for construction, and the preservation of a heritage oak tree on the southeast corner of the property required a shallow mat foundation and thoughtful pile placement so as not to disturb the surficial soils, with piles threaded between tree roots within the critical root zone.

In the same area, an existing pole-mounted transformer could not be relocated, forcing the jaunty mid-height offset of the stair tower. Atop the third-floor platform, the wood enclosures were likewise left with exposed structure, their framing laid out purposefully to minimize field modifications or exposed connectors, and diagonal lumber sheathing for shear walls instead of standard plywood.

Every detail, right down to the iconic hanging gate at the Rainey Street entrance, was considered, vetted, and fine-tuned due to the tight property boundaries.

Clive Bar 5

WGI played a pivotal role in making Clive Bar’s transformation a reality, providing both structural and civil/land development engineering services for the project. The collaboration between all stakeholders was crucial, as WGI’s Market Leader of Buildings – Structural Engineering, Forrest Bratton, PE, expressed:

“It was a true team effort that could have never been done without the dedicated buy-in from everyone involved to work through each challenge. Clive Bar ranks as one of my favorite projects to have been a part of, both due to the experience and the final product. Plus, it’s always great when we can have a drink while enjoying our handiwork!”

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Today, Clive Bar stands as a testament to innovation and resilience in the face of challenges. In a rapidly changing neighborhood that will soon be home to Waterline, the tallest tower in Texas, Clive Bars’ unique architecture and vibrant atmosphere are a beacon signaling that Rainey Street’s quaint spirit continues to thrive. Clive Bar remains an iconic destination for both locals and visitors, offering an undeniably chic and one-of-a-kind setting in the heart of Austin’s ever-evolving nightlife scene.

Contact Us!

Are you interested in learning how WGI’s team of award-winning professionals can assist you in the re-imagination and construction of a one-of-a-kind space like Clive Bar? Contact our experts today to get started on your journey!

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