A view of the new EPIcenter from Mission Road. The seven-story structural skeleton, which once housed the power plant's boiler, will have platforms providing visitors views of the surrounding landscape.
A view of the proposed EPIcenter from Mission Road in 2017. Credit: Courtesy / Lake Flato

CPS Energy is poised to move forward next year with an up to $2.5 million renovation project adjacent to the estimated $74.5 million EPIcenter, a planned energy and technology innovation center on the San Antonio River’s Mission Reach. The renovated building would house a sort of internal incubator for the public utility.

Initial plans for the building emerged last month during a CPS Energy update on the EPIcenter project, which is its own nonprofit entity and separate from the energy utility. On Monday, officials revealed CPS Energy’s plans for the one-story 6,800-sq. ft. building as well as EPIcenter’s ambitious fundraising campaign. The nonprofit is $53 million away from its goal and plans to open the much larger, state-of-the-art facility in phases over the next three years.

CPS Energy has yet to convey the 100-year-old power plant property to EPIcenter, but once it does later this year, CPS Energy CEO Paula Gold-Williams told reporters Monday, the company will be able to justify moving on the one-story project soon after.

This non-historic, brick building will likely be demolished, EPIcenter officials said.
This non-historic, brick building was slated for demolition, but now CPS Energy has plans to move an innovations team in to complement the EPIcenter complex. Credit: Iris Dimmick / San Antonio Report

“That is still a formal action for the board to take,” Gold-Williams said.

It’s still unclear how many CPS Energy employees will work in the new building, but Gold-Williams has already selected at least three – from its data analytics, customer service, and architecture technology groups – to start thinking about this pre-incubation period.

“We have innovation springing up all throughout CPS Energy … [The building] will be a place where we can start to take ideas and really brainstorm them and think about the ability to incubate them … and then take them to actual activation and implementation,” Gold-Williams said.

“This will give us a standard location” for staff working on innovations in energy and technology, she added. “Right now it happens all over.”

EPIcenter will also lease office space from CPS Energy in the smaller buildings for its staff and New Energy Incubator, which currently operates out of Geekdom.

“This [building] puts our mission in visible motion,” EPIcenter CEO Kimberly Britton said. “It’s a game-changing opportunity.”

The 80,000-sq. ft. EPIcenter will accommodate startup businesses and nonprofit groups concentrating on the advancement of clean and renewable energies with a think tank, new energy co-op, fabrication laboratory, exhibit space, conference center, and venues indoors and out.

The one-story building will “fast track” the concepts of collaboration that will be seen on a larger scale at EPIcenter. “We’re able to collaborate sooner rather than later,” Britton said.

Funding commitments to the EPIcenter so far total $21.2 million from partners such as OCI Solar Power, Silver Spring Networks, and Landis+Gyr. About $6.2 million of that are buildings and property soon to be conveyed by CPS Energy.

Another two-story building across from the power plant is included in EPIcenter’s plans and may feature a commercial tenant such as a retailer or restaurant, Britton said. “We’re keeping our options open.”

Earlier this year, EPIcenter launched its Power Network, which invites individuals and businesses to join for $25 to $10,000 or more per year by offering lectures, mixers, and other special events. Membership in the EPIcenter Neighbor program will be free for all students and teachers as well as residents living directly adjacent to the facility.

CPS Energy is also in the middle of renovating two mid-rise buildings downtown, slated to become the public utility’s main headquarters. The $100 million project to transform two office towers into a LEED Gold certified facility is expected to be completed by 2019.

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Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. Contact her at iris@sareport.org