The Austin Chronicle

Jumpolin Supporters Claim a Victory

By Tony Cantú, February 27, 2015, 12:30pm, Newsdesk

The New York City-based event planning firm that planned to stage a SXSW-timed party at the site of the demolished Jumpolin piñata store on the city’s Eastside has pulled out of the event, its CEO confirmed to the Chronicle.

Benjamin Hindman, CEO and co-founder of Splash Inc., initially declined to comment when reached by telephone shortly after noon on Wednesday, Feb. 25. His firm had applied for an ultimately approved city permit to stage a party during SXSW on March 14 at the site, which was purchased by F&F Real Estate Ventures in October. F&F Ventures demolished the long-standing piñata business at the site four months later allegedly without prior notice to its owners.

“I’m sorry, I don’t have any comment for you,” Hindman said when reached by phone. “Thanks for calling.” By early evening, he followed up via email to confirm his company would no longer stage a party at the site of the piñata business its owners contend was demolished without notice: “Sorry to hang up on you,” he wrote. “Yes. We will be looking for another venue.”

Community activists supporting Jumpolin owners Sergio and Monica Lejarazu applauded Hindman’s decision to back out of staging a party at the site. They took credit for the development, citing a letter-writing campaign they initiated alerting Hindman to the community furor over the demolition and to their planned protest during the March 14 party.

“While this was a great victory, we know that this isn't over that F&F will still be trying to figure a way to profit from their actions,” an administrator of the Justice for Jumpolin Community Action Facebook page wrote to supporters of the Lejarazus. “We will be determining next steps in collaboration with the Lejarazu family and other community members directly affected to guide any possible actions.”

On Thursday, District 3 Council Member Pio Renteria confirmed on his Facebook page that, “Since the event permit for the location was obtained by Splash Inc. and their request to move it has been accepted by the city, the property owners, F&F Real Estate Ventures, will be unable to host another event at 1401 East Cesar Chavez during SXSW. The city has assured me that they will not be accepting any new requests for temporary permits at that location for the SXSW season and that they will work to ensure no events take place without the required permits.”

F&F Ventures demolished the Jumpolin piñata business on Feb. 12, claiming its tenants were behind on rent – an allegation the Lejarazus dispute. The Lejarazus also dispute the claim they were given notice of an impending demolition of their business, which contained their inventory of piñatas – destroyed along with the building. The couple have since found a temporary location to sell their wares and have hired an attorney to file suit against the property owners.

KXAN reported Wednesday, Feb. 18, that in their rush to demolish Jumpolin, the “demolitions crews ... reportedly hit the main gas line, spurring Austin fire crews to respond. Texas Gas Service spokeswoman Christy Penders says crews will need to replace part of the line.”

On his LinkedIn page, Hindman also identifies himself as founder and CEO of another company called One Clipboard. The page also indicates that in 2007, Hindman graduated from Vanderbilt University, which is also the alma mater of F&F Ventures’ partners Jordan French and Darius Fisher. However, neither French nor Fisher list their year of graduation from Vanderbilt – making it unclear if the three attended the university together.

Update: TGS spokeswoman Christy Penders told the Chronicle it was not the main gas line that was hit, but the aboveground part of the meter that connects to the underground gas line: “We received a call there was a line that had been hit by the contractor. Our crew went out there and, I believe, the fire department actually clamped the line, which stopped the flow of gas to make the scene safe right away. We followed up to make sure the everything was okay, and cut off service to the street. Whoever moves in there, there’s no gas service to the lot. They would have to apply for city permits, and would have to reach out to us to have gas service. Once they clear city permitting, then we’d be brought out.”

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