The City’s Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) has approved a mixed-use development project featuring residential units, retail space, and parking for buildings located on historic Cattleman Square on the city’s near-Westside.
Entitled “Vitré,” the French word for window pane, the development will be “the window to the Westside,” said Michael Wibracht of 210 Developers, which also developed the Peanut Factory Lofts near the University of Texas at San Antonio.
The new four-story project will include 242 residential units built over a two-story, podium parking lot and 5,000 sq. ft. of ground-level retail space. Vitré will be bound by I-35 to the east, Commerce Street to the south, and Houston Street to the north. The developers said the exterior design would fit nicely with the UTSA Downtown Campus.
The site at 700 West Commerce St. was once the home to the bustling Toudouze Market, a small, family-owned market and later grocery wholesaler founded in 1952 by A.C. and Charles Toudouze. The grocery catered to residents of the district until 1985, though the building itself dates to the 1920s. Toudouze purchased the Maureaux Building, one of the oldest structures in the area, in 1929.
The Maureaux Building will be partially demolished to retain the south and east facades. A one-story addition to the west of the building collapsed after heavy rains in 2013 and was subject to an emergency demolition. The ground-floor storefront and canopy are set to be replaced and reconstructed if those changes are approved by city officials.
210 Developers are working with STG Design to reconstruct facades based on the original design as seen in period photographs.
“The existing street-facing facades are being preserved – the balance of the building has been determined to be structurally unstable and is not salvageable,” said Larry Meeks, a principal architect at STG Design in Houston. “We will stabilize the facades and build a new structure behind them, and then reconnect. The existing facades will be structurally stabilized during the construction and detailed to reconnect. We will provide an enclosure for the new space built behind them.”
The Toudouze Market building’s brick and stone facade will be protected and restored along West Commerce Street and Pecos Street/I-35. Following removal of the interior structure, a new floor and roof will house the leasing office and fitness center.
Because the original storefront windows and transoms have deteriorated beyond repair, new replacement windows mirroring the old character of Toudouze Market will be installed at street level, and second-floor windows will respect original configuration.
The project construction is expected to begin in early to mid-February, beginning with demolition.
“We read a market study that the City of San Antonio commissioned in 2012 that talked about the demand for student housing,” Wibracht said. “The City of San Antonio is doing very generous incentive zones with incentive packages, and we used the study as the launching point to build the Peanut Factory Lofts. We’ve looked for other areas on the Westside where we can bring other people on.”
Apartments will be priced at market rate. Wybreck characterized them as Class A housing and estimated the cost per unit at about $1.75 per foot with an average unit size of 780 sq. ft.
Developers presented their initial request for Cattleman Square to the HDRC on May 13, when the committee requested that an engineering report be provided to substantiate the proposal to only retain the building’s southern and eastern facades.
Since then, the commission has reviewed historical characteristics of the building along with the new proposals. While the original storefront and canopy appear to have been removed, the second floor features ornate terra-cotta detailing and cornices, the commission report stated.
The HDRC reviewed the applicant’s request again on Nov. 13, commending the project for providing much-needed housing in the area, while raising concerns about treatment of the historic facade and repair of wood window frames on the second floor. While podium-level parking is not consistent with the Spirit of Downtown design guidelines, the developer was successful in focusing retail space along West Commerce Street, the report stated.
The applicant provided an engineer’s report recommending demolition of the building due to the severity of deterioration of the wood frames. While the interior and structural work is not subject to HDRC review, the proposal to partially demolish the Maureaux building to support new construction should be the last resort, the report stated.
The HDRC reviewed the proposal for a third time on Nov. 25, when the applicant provided a drawing with the addition of a hardie panel band along the parapet to create a building cap, added articulation at the ground level, extension of the corner masses to the ground level, additional screening and planting for parking areas, modification of fenestration at the ground and second levels, and additional options for exterior materials.
Developers also must adhere to building height restrictions in historic districts. Buildings within Cattleman’s Square are typically two to three stories tall, though the Commission acknowledged a lack of established pattern for building height on that block of West Commerce Street due to the lack of surviving historic buildings there.
Wibracht said the Maureaux Building will include a workout facility, an Internet cafe, and a place for people to congregate once completed.
The building has been condemned twice by the City. After review of its current physical state, the developers decided to preserve the exterior facades and put the project’s amenity space behind them, creating a level of activity that faces the street and breathes new life into the location, he said.