CPS Energy has sold a coveted stretch of vacant land on the River Walk — next to the San Antonio Museum of Art and across Interstate 35 from the Pearl — to a group owned by the McCombs family.
McCombs Family Partners bought the 5.9-acre parcel, at the east corner of West Jones Avenue and Camden Street, on Monday, county deed records show. The purchase price was $29.5 million, said Milady Nazir, a spokeswoman for CPS Energy.
The group isn’t ready to share what it’s considering for the property, said Harry Adams IV, managing executive for McCombs Properties, its real estate arm.
“It’s a special piece of property. Our group has had our eye on it for, shoot, three and a half years,” he said. “We’ve looked at a number of different types of uses but until the point that we’ve finalized our plans we’re not prepared to disclose any.”
The purchase of the land, which once was floated as a possible site for a minor league baseball park, marks the McCombs family’s second major downtown investment over the last year, after it partnered with real estate investors Jon Wiegand and Ed Cross to buy the landmark Tower Life Building in May, with plans to renovate it into condominiums and apartments.
McCombs Family Partners is not considering a stadium for the Jones Avenue site, Adams said. “We never rule anything out, but it’s not in our current planning,” he said.
Red McCombs, the 95-year-old family patriarch who grew a chain of auto dealerships and is a previous owner of the San Antonio Spurs, has been investing in real estate since he was in his twenties, Adams said. In San Antonio, the family office helped to build the 21-story Broadway luxury high-rise at the corner of Broadway and Hildebrand Avenue near the Witte Museum.
The office is now led by McCombs’ daughter, Marsha Shields, as well as her sisters and McCombs’ grandchildren, Adams said. It’s working on developments as far away as the Gulf Coast, Colorado and New Mexico.
The Jones site — which CPS Energy once used as a service center, and is home to several nondescript office and industrial buildings — has a complicated recent history.
In 2015, CPS Energy agreed to donate much of the 7 acres it owned on Jones Avenue to the San Antonio Museum of Art. Three years later, it put a portion of the property on the market, along with five other downtown sites it had declared surplus, with plans to use the proceeds of the sales to offset the cost of its new $210 million headquarters on the River Walk at McCullough Avenue.
But in November, the board of the city-owned utility voted to change course on the Jones site, giving only a 1-acre parcel to the museum while putting the rest on the market.
The 5.9-acre parcel hit the market in May of last year and quickly attracted a lot of interest, said Asher Reilly, a real estate broker with CBRE who marketed it.
Several groups, both local and from outside San Antonio, competed for the site, he said.
“There was substantial interest. It was a highly competitive process,” he said. “It was as highly sought-after as anything I’ve been a part of in this market.”
He attributed the strong interest to its location on the River Walk near the Pearl. The property is along the Museum Reach of the San Antonio River, where apartment complexes have proliferated over the last decade, offering residents easy access to downtown and the Pearl. It’s across the river from the River House and 1221 Broadway Lofts apartment complexes and down the street from another complex, Jones & Rio.
“There’s very few contiguous, large tracts of land that are effectively undeveloped, with no owner, in the midtown, downtown area,” Adams said. “We think it’s really an epic piece of land.”
CPS Energy’s surplus properties also included its former headquarters in a 10-story River Walk tower, which it sold for $19 million early last year to a firm based with Houston and Chicago with plans to redevelop it into a hotel. It also sold the Navarro Building, at 146 Navarro St., for $22.3 million to a Los Angeles developer in 2021.
With the Jones Avenue property sold, only one of the six surplus downtown properties that CPS Energy set out to sell in 2021 remains unsold — the Villita Assembly Building at 401 Villita St., a 1.1-acre event center built in 1958 and known for its use as a food court and dance pavilion during Fiesta.
CPS Energy made the transition to the McCullough headquarters in late 2020.
In 2017, the Elmore Sports Group considered the Jones Avenue property as a potential site for a Triple-A baseball stadium. At that time, Elmore also was looking at the Government Hill neighborhood east of the Pearl and the area around Fox Tech High School in west downtown, according to reporting in the San Antonio Express-News.
The property wasn’t included among seven potential stadium sites in a study prepared for the City of San Antonio in 2016 by the Barrett Sports Group. Over the past year, as the minor league San Antonio Missions have come under new ownership, the downtown development firm Weston Urban has been eyeing properties near the northern end of San Pedro Creek with thoughts of building a stadium there.
CPS Energy and Red McCombs Automotive are financial supporters of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business members, click here.