The developers behind the long-awaited revitalization of the old Lone Star brewery have taken the first steps toward tearing down parts of the industrial complex.

In August, the city’s Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) issued certificates of approval for a number of the aging and graffitied structures GrayStreet Partners and Midway want to remove as part of the demolition plan they have submitted to the city for approval.

In historic districts, builders must receive certificates of approval before applying for demolition permits. The 32-acre Lone Star property is in the Mission Historic District.

New construction on the mixed-use development is scheduled to begin in 2022, said Peter French, director of development for GrayStreet Partners. Before that, a cleanup and clearing out of the site must be done. 

“A phased demolition is likely to start soon, in the next 4 to 8 weeks, with the goal of making the site less of a hazard,” French stated in an email, adding the developers plan to remove only buildings considered “non-contributing” to the history of the site.

Twelve of the structures on the property date to the earliest days of the brewery and are considered historically and architecturally significant, in whole or part, according to OHP. Those structures, mostly located within the core of the site, will be retained and possibly repurposed. 

Structures within the core part of the Lone Star complex date to the earliest days of the brewery and are considered historically and architecturally significant, according to the Office of Historic Preservation. Those structures should be retained and possibly repurposed in the redevelopment.
Structures within the core part of the Lone Star complex date to the earliest days of the brewery and are considered historically and architecturally significant, according to the Office of Historic Preservation. Those structures should be retained and possibly repurposed in the redevelopment. Credit: Photo Illustration / Scott Ball / Photo – Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

They include seven buildings, four silos, the branded smokestack, the lake and pool, the tree-lined driveway entrance on Lone Star Boulevard, and the rail spur. In a survey completed last year, OHP also recommended preserving a mural that remains following a 2019 fire that destroyed three buildings. 

These structures “are the integral components of the complex that have retained integrity, reflect the timeline of the development of the site, and if retained, would continue to convey the history and industrial association of the property,” states the report.

But Lone Star’s prominent lake and pool, built in the late 1940s and early 1950s when families used it for recreation and a synchronized swimming team performed there, won’t be restored as a water feature.

Instead, developers have said they’ll follow OHP’s recommendation to design a landscape “interpretation” that indicates the position and location of the lake on the site. That work is slated for a fifth phase of the overall project, according to demolition engineering documents prepared for GrayStreet. 

In May, the San Antonio City Council approved an agreement to reimburse GrayStreet and Midway up to $24 million in infrastructure costs over 15 years, setting the Lone Star District project in motion with an expected start date later this year. 

Redevelopment plans call for at least 1 million square feet of housing, 186 hotel rooms, nearly 400,000 square feet of office and commercial space, and refurbished streets and new widened sidewalks along Lone Star Boulevard.

The total project is estimated to cost $709 million and will be constructed in phases over a 10-year period.

A conceptual rendering showing an aerial view of the future Lone Star District. Credit: Courtesy / Midway and GrayStreet Partners

The first and second phases of the redevelopment call for full and partial demolition of some of the buildings nearest Lone Star Boulevard.

Those include buildings constructed in the latter years the brewery operated, which are eligible for demolition, the OHP report stated, because the loss would not adversely affect the historical integrity of the complex. Permits to tear down those buildings could be issued without approval from the Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC). 

But a demolition request “does not necessarily mean we will remove a structure immediately, or at all,” French said in his email, adding that partial demolitions “may not be feasible once we have a clearer understanding of the stability of older buildings.”

The developers are required to submit for HDRC approval all plans for new development and construction. 

So far, the demolition plans are in alignment with what is already administratively approved, said Cory Edwards, deputy historic preservation officer. In addition, not every part of the buildings the developers are looking to raze will go to the landfill.

In some cases, plans call for facades, partial structures, and building materials to be preserved and reused in the new development which will also feature interactive displays and murals that will pay homage to the history of Lone Star.

Improvements to Lone Star could also extend to the surrounding neighborhood. For instance, the developers have said they plan to upgrade the swimming pool in nearby Roosevelt Park.

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.