The top three floors of Ridgemont Properties' proposed office building at 200 Austin Highway near Broadway would accommodate tenants. Credit: Courtesy / Studio8 Architects

A multistory commercial building is in the works for the heart of Alamo Heights, and it could be a harbinger of things to come along the central Broadway corridor.

Ridgemont Properties has proposed constructing a four-story, 30,502-square-foot structure on a 1-acre tract at 200 Austin Highway near Broadway. If approved, the project would require demolition of a former Bank of America drive-through facility on the tract.

The property is currently a staging area for crews building a multistory apartment complex across Austin Highway. The apartment complex, which will include retail space, was a source of controversy for Alamo Heights leaders and residents a few years ago.

The construction site at 200 Austin Hwy.
Construction materials for a project across the street currently occupy the site at 200 Austin Highway, a former motor bank. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Ridgemont Properties is based on Broadway in Alamo Heights, a short distance from the proposed project site. Studio8 Architects, which has offices in Olmos Park and Austin, is designing the unnamed commercial building. Local company Project Control would handle construction.

Briefing the Alamo Heights City Council on Dec. 10, Ridgemont Vice President C. Trebes Sasser Jr. said the development would fill a market need in the immediate area: new office space for small local business owners.

“I view this project as an amenity for the city,” Sasser told the Council. “Right now, we do not have a high-end, Class-A office product in the city of Alamo Heights.”

Sasser explained this new office space will be “programmed for the neighborhood entrepreneur. We’re not looking for corporate tenants that you might find downtown or in a lower-Broadway development, although we love those projects.”

Sasser also described the commercial building as “a transformational project,” with it replacing a former 10-lane motor bank.

The new office building could also activate the Broadway commercial corridor through Alamo Heights, Sasser said.

“It’s one more project that’ll continue to transform this city and make it an all-around great, walkable neighborhood,” he added.

The top three floors would accommodate tenants. Some parking spaces would be on street level underneath the bulk of the building and outside on the street.

Richard Garrod, architect at Studio8, said the plan includes some wood siding to “warm up” the proposed building exterior.

Garrod added that the overall design would take into consideration parking trends on neighboring streets, including those surrounding the new apartment complex going up across the road. City officials added that variances would likely be necessary to accommodate the parking plan.

Milton Hime, Studio8 principal, said there are plans to address flood plain issues. Many local officials and residents have for years expressed worry about drainage at Broadway and Austin Highway. A flood plain development permit is required to help advance the project.

Ridgemont Properties Vice President C. Trebes Sasser Jr. described the development as “a transformational project.” Credit: Courtesy / Studio8 Architects

Mayor Bobby Rosenthal, at the meeting, thanked project representatives for presenting their vision for the development early in a lengthy process that will involve the City’s Architectural Review Board before final Council consideration.

The City recently began a process by which the Council and residents get a glance at preliminary information on a proposed development before the project goes through formal review.

When the Broadway/Austin Highway apartment proposal first popped up, some residents criticized the City for appearing reactive to the controversy.

Rosenthal also thanked the designers for keeping in mind worries about building near the flood plain.

Additionally, the mayor suggested the developer be proactive and speak with neighbors. Sasser pledged to reach out to residents and individual Council members.

“You should get those residents into the loop sooner rather than later,” Rosenthal added.

The Council cannot yet weigh in on the Ridgemont plan, but Rosenthal told the Rivard Report the preliminary design looks promising.

“The project looks good from a design standpoint but they will have to comply with the process as they proceed,” he added. “Obviously, we will need to clearly evaluate their analysis on the impact on flooding.”

Brand new construction is a rarity for a landlocked city such as Alamo Heights. But local officials acknowledge that a couple of significant happenings could result in newer redevelopment.

Alamo Heights not long ago revised its development standards, including those designed to lure more business opportunities to the main Broadway commercial sector.

And while the City of San Antonio continues with plans to transform its portion of Broadway into a “complete street,” Alamo Heights is seeking matching funds to support a remake of its part of Broadway.

Rosenthal said any future changes to Broadway should make the roadway friendlier to pedestrians and prospective new businesses.

But right now, the City is more concerned about securing funding help towards potential Broadway improvements, the mayor added.

“Hopefully, we will continue to see a more activity and more redevelopment, where warranted, within the commercial district,” Rosenthal said.

“If we are able to get all of the needed funding to transform Broadway, based substantially on the plan presented at the last City Council meeting, we would hope to see more of these projects in the future, since the potential for flooding would be greatly reduced and the appeal of the area would be enhanced.”

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.