The WeWork lease agreement includes the former Children's Museum and the Kress buildings on Houston Street.
The WeWork lease agreement includes the Grant and Kress buildings on East Houston Street. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Global coworking giant WeWork will move into the Kress Building downtown after all.

The New York City-based company has signed a lease at the 315 E. Houston St. building and at the Grant Building at 305 E. Houston St.

WeWork first announced its plans to offer coworking memberships in San Antonio last fall, saying it would operate in the Kress Building. Later, officials said a lease had not been signed and a number of San Antonio properties were still being explored.

“I can’t really explain why they did what they did,” said Peter French, director of development at GrayStreet Partners. GrayStreet, a commercial development firm, owns the Kress Building. “We didn’t comment at the time just because we weren’t ready to say anything for or against.”

French said WeWork matched the profile for the tenant they were seeking in the burgeoning Houston Street tech district.

“They check really every box,” French said, adding the company has the name recognition needed to boost a largely grassroots-driven tech district downtown. “It fits very, very nicely.”

French said he sees WeWork’s impending arrival as the validation the nascent tech scene downtown had been seeking. The project to brand East Houston Street as the tech district began in earnest with the launch of coworking space Geekdom in 2011. Backed by co-founder Graham Weston, the tech-centric company saw its mission as building an ecosystem of tech startups in downtown San Antonio.

Now that ecosystem is large enough that WeWork is arriving to claim a piece of it.

French said it’s encouraging “to see big out-of-town players enter the market because they believe in the strength of the market.

“These companies take a lot of time assessing and analyzing the moves that they make. They have teams of people dedicated to studying market analytics and demographics. That they’re bullish on San Antonio speaks volumes to what everybody has been doing for the last decade, but certainly in the last five years in particular, to make this happen.”

Geekdom officials have said they do not view WeWork as strictly competitive with their offerings because they differ in price and amenities, and Geekdom emphasizes supporting local early-stage entrepreneurship, whereas WeWork locations typically have a mix of more established entrepreneurs and corporate outposts.

A WeWork membership can cost as little as $45 a month, but that price point affords members a desk for only one day per month. Full memberships start at $190 for an unassigned desk. A similar membership at Geekdom costs $50 a month, although WeWork offers higher-end amenities.

WeWork will lease the second floor of the Grant Building and the third, fourth, and fifth floors of the Kress Building for a total of 75,000 square feet in the downtown buildings. GrayStreet owns both spaces.

“Part of what we’ve been working to do is connect the Grant and Kress buildings,” French said.

In addition, WeWork’s around-the-clock activity will bring a boost to the retail and restaurant tenants on Houston Street, he said. GrayStreet also announced last fall the construction of a food hall at the Kress Building. French said the commercial real estate development firm will reveal more news about the planned food hall soon.

WeWork officials did not respond to several requests for comment Monday, but the company previously said the downtown San Antonio location would accommodate about 1,100 members.

The company has more than 660 open or upcoming locations in 115 cities throughout the world, according to its website. In Texas, the Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and Austin areas each feature several WeWork locations.

WeWork is preparing to go public. The company, valued at $47 billion in a recent investment, filed paperwork in December to begin that process.

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.