The building that once housed the Twin Peaks restaurant, where a May 17 shootout between biker gangs and law enforcement left nine bikers dead and 18 wounded, is creating a stark difference of opinion among local real estate agents commenting on its marketability.
“It will have to be totally razed because it won’t get over the stigma,” said Brad Davis, a commercial specialist at Coldwell Banker Jim Stewart Realtors.
Chris Gutierrez at Commercial and Industrial Real Estate Services echoed that sentiment.
“The site more than likely will be sold as a clear pad,” he said. “There was such a specific use of the existing building, it was so identifiable with the previous user that anyone else probably would want a fresh start.”
But Mike Meadows, a commercial specialist at Kelly Realtors, disagreed.
“I think there is a very good chance there would be another food use considered for that location,” he said. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
Randy Reid at The Reid Co. took the same stance.
“I think it’s hard to assign blame to a building,” he said. “Given a little bit of time, and by that I mean six months to a couple of years, I think memories of what happened there will fade, and I can see using that building.”
Police cleared out of the Twin Peaks property at Central Texas Marketplace on Tuesday, having found 118 handguns, one AK-47 rifle and 157 knives tucked into nooks and crannies in the wake of the deadly shootout.
Authorities who toured the 7,680-square-foot structure, built to resemble a hunting lodge, described a bizarre scene of blood spatters, weapons tucked in bags of tortilla chips and half-eaten burgers deserted as the gunbattle erupted, sending bullets flying all over the retail center.
The Twin Peaks corporate office revoked its franchise agreement with the Waco operator, Peaktastic Beverage LLC, and crews removed all Twin Peaks signs overnight Wednesday. Corporate officials have said a Twin Peaks restaurant never again will operate at that location, though they do not know what will happen to the building.
The structure is owned by Store Master Funding VI LLC, of Scottsdale, Arizona, whose asset portfolio manager could not be reached for comment Thursday. The local Twin Peaks franchisee reportedly is leasing the building from Store Master Funding, said Rick Van Warner, a Twin Peaks corporate spokesman.
Van Warner said Peaktastic Beverage LLC still owns and operates a Twin Peaks in Harker Heights, but corporate is negotiating to “remove them from our system.” He said he could not comment on how those talks would affect future ownership of the restaurant in Harker Heights or whether it would remain open.
Officials with Peaktastic Beverage LLC have not returned phone calls seeking comment on the shootout or the closing of the local restaurant.
Josh Carter, another commercial sales specialist at Coldwell Banker Jim Stewart Realtors, said the situation involving the Twin Peaks building is so unique that he does not know if there is a right or wrong answer to whether it should be leveled or maintained but significantly remodeled.
“From a stigma viewpoint, I don’t know that razing makes the event fade any faster,” he said. “But if it is remodeled as a different restaurant concept, I can’t see how the user would not be forced to strip the building bare to the walls and floor. Without doing that, it would be difficult to create something that did not resemble Twin Peaks.”
Meadows said he would not assign a blemish to the building “based on the experience of one franchisee.” He said he would welcome the opportunity to market the structure and would pitch it to both food and nonfood prospects, adding, “I would not want to limit my approach.”
The McLennan County Appraisal District has valued the building at $1.93 million for tax purposes and placed a $1.2 million value on the 1.7 acres on which it sits.
“It’s a well-built structure, functional for other people and other uses. Under other circumstances, considering the growth of Central Texas Marketplace and its evolution into a power center, it would be in great demand,” said 38-year commercial real estate specialist Jon Spelman.
“But the stigma will be very, very similar to that of Luby’s in Killeen, and it will be razed. I think it will be knocked down. I really do.”
On Oct. 16, 1991, George Hennard crashed his pickup through the front of the Luby’s restaurant at 1705 E. Central Texas Expressway in Killeen and proceeded to shoot 43 customers, 23 of whom died, then committed suicide in a restroom.
The location closed for a redesign of the front of the restaurant, but could not recover from the fatal shooting after reopening and closed permanently in September 2000. The building is occupied today by a Chinese-American restaurant named Yank Sing.
Davis, who suggested the Twin Peaks structure fall to the wrecking ball, said the only reasonable alternative would be a completely new design and shape.
“And even that would be a stretch,” Davis said, adding the best approach would be to level Twin Peaks and replace it with a small strip of retail space for four or five tenants.
“I think it remains to be seen whether a stigma will stick to Don Carlos because every time Twin Peaks is mentioned, it seems, so is that Mexican restaurant,” said Davis, mentioning the eatery next door to Twin Peaks that was filled with customers when the bloody noon-hour shootout began.
Gutierrez said is not unusual for new users of restaurant space to level existing buildings and replace them with their own prototypes, “even if no stigma is involved.”
“That’s a reality in today’s economic climate,” Gutierrez said. “Most of the larger chains that could afford to move into Central Texas Marketplace would have its own building type, so an existing structure probably would have to go. I do believe every piece available in that popular center will be put to use.”