The Aztec Theater at 201 E. Commerce. St. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
The Aztec Theater at 201 E. Commerce. St. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

The six-story office building that is home to the historic Aztec Theatre will be converted to apartments, adding another venue to the slowly growing list of residential options in the heart of downtown San Antonio. The 1926-era theater, the last surviving example of a Mayan Revival theater in Texas, will continue to operate as a live music venue.

The Aztec Theatre is located at 104 N. St. Mary’s St. at Commerce Street.

The 210 Development Group, the building’s new owner, announced that it will turn current office space on the third through sixth floors into 41 units, totaling 21,319 square feet. Michael Wibracht, 210 Development Group’s president and managing partner, said floor plans will range from a tiny 326 sq. ft. studio to units that will be 881 sq. ft.

210 Development did not release a firm timeline or its leasing rates. Wibracht said rents will be market rate, and construction will begin in the first quarter of 2016. Cost of the project was not disclosed. According to the Bexar County Appraisal District, $6.76 million is the current appraisal for the Aztec building.

Built in 1926, The Aztec was among the notable exotic-themed cinemas built in the United States during the pre-Depression economic boom. It was part of a downtown theater district that included the Empire (226 N. St. Mary’s), the Majestic (224 E. Houston), the Texas (105 E. Houston St.), and the Alameda (318 W. Houston) theaters.

210 Development, based in the King William/Southtown area, completed several historic, infill and adaptive reuse projects locally and has other projects in the planning stages, including two projects on the western edge of downtown.

Purchase of the Aztec Theater building has been two years in the making, its new owners said, following  discussions with the Aztec Family Group, the ownership group led by local entrepreneur Sam Panchevre.

“There aren’t many buildings where you have live performances, high quality housing above that and on the River Walk,” said Wibracht. “It’s in the center of everything. It falls in line with our objectives.”

One of 210 Development’s other downtown projects is the nearly completed Peanut Factory Lofts, a 102-unit multifamily project community at 939 S. Frio St. The company will begin construction soon on the 24-unit Vitre, the former Toudouze Market grocery building at 800 Buena Vista St.

210 Development Group has three residential projects planned near the Missions, now part of a World Heritage Site. The group hopes to build 300 market-rate apartments at the Mission Marquee Plaza, 3100 Roosevelt,, 200 apartments at the former St. John’s Catholic Seminary, 222 E. Mitchell, adjacent to Mission Concepción, and 144 apartments at 131 Huizar St. adjacent to Mission San José.

The Mission district projects have received both support and opposition as various community groups and local government begin to explore how best to move forward with badly needed infrastructure improvements and infill development along the major corridors and surrounding neighborhoods of the near-Southside that next month will be officially inscribed as a World Heritage site.

Wibracht said his company is sensitive to the community’s needs and concerns and is committed to preserving the area’s history and culture. That appreciation, he said, will be evident in the group’s stewardship of the Aztec Theatre.

“We’re not touching the exterior, only existing office space in the interior,” Wibracht said. “We haven’t heard anything negative from anybody. People love the idea.”

Like the other downtown theaters, the Aztec’s history has been up and down, with years as a performing arts and live music venue, a cinema, and years of closure. It is one of many historic structures that was saved from demolition by the San Antonio Conservation Society, which purchased the Aztec in 1988. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. Ownership of the building then changed hands at least twice, and in 2006 its latest owner, Baron Theodore Bracht, invested $20 million in the restoration of its spectacular ornate interior.

Panchevre and his Aztec Family Group bought the theater earlier this year from Aztec Project Development Ltd. In August, Panchevre sold a 51% stake in the venue to Los Angeles-based Live Nation, a concert promoter. Live Action is not a part of the Aztec apartment conversion.

 *Top image: The Aztec Theater at 201 E. Commerce. St. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

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Edmond Ortiz

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