The high-profile owner and developer of several office buildings in the central business district has plans to continue changing the downtown skyline. But with more residential properties in the future.
Downtown developer Weston Urban has turned its entire focus to residential development in the urban core, said Mark Jensen, vice president of Weston Urban, speaking to a group of San Antonio commercial real estate professionals on Thursday. And that’s not about to change anytime soon.
The company founded by tech entrepreneur Graham Weston broke ground in April on an apartment tower, dubbed 300 Main after its location on a sliver of land between Main and Soledad streets.
The building will be 32 stories, matching the developer’s nearby office building, Weston Centre, and have 354 units ranging in size from studios to three-bedroom penthouses.
Weston Urban also will soon start on a residential project at 332 Commerce St. that will bring 255 units to an area along the San Pedro Creek Culture Park within two years. The developer isn’t stopping there.
Through a public-private partnership, Weston Urban has plans
“If possible, we’d like to be responsible, just within our footprint [downtown], for a couple thousand [units] over the next decade,” Jensen said. “I think we need way more than that.”
At the start of the year, around 12,000 units in more than two dozen apartment projects were under construction across all of San Antonio, according to a report by real estate analytics firm Yardi Matrix.
But newer multifamily developments in the central business district can be counted on one hand, among them the 86-unit Maverick at 606 N. Presa St. and 61 for-sale units at The Arts Residences at Thompson Hotel at 123 Lexington Ave.
In order to bring “real vibrancy” to downtown San Antonio, the urban core needs more multifamily housing, Jensen said, and estimated Weston Urban could contribute at least 2,000 to 2,500 units downtown in a variety of building types and sizes.
While San Antonio lacks the strong downtown office market that cities like Austin and Houston have, there is a “decent concentration” of office space in the central business district, Jensen said.
In addition to the Weston Centre, Weston Urban owns the Savoy, Rand, Milam and other buildings in the area. Its most recent project was an urban green space known as Legacy Park, completed in 2020. But the developer put the 24-story Frost Tower built in 2019 up for sale in January.
“We are still actively leasing office today, but that’s been slow,” Jensen said, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Downtown San Antonio is very livable, in Jensen’s view. What’s missing is residents, “people on the streets during the week after five o’clock,” he said. “And so we are focused on really changing that.”
The historic Milam building that Weston Urban acquired in 2016 could be its next project, one that would have a mix of uses including apartments.
“We joke that we work on some projects and other projects work on us,” Jensen said. For a year, the Milam has been undergoing a federal historic review so the developer can take advantage of historic tax credits in order to renovate the 1920s-era office building.
If approved this year, “then we would get cranking as fast as we could after that,” he said. “We’ve got a concept we love and a partner on board that likes it, too.”
But Weston Urban also owns several other parcels of land it wants to develop in the near future, he added. And others are looking to do the same.
“There’s a ton of opportunity in San Antonio,” Jensen said, with a lot of underutilized surface lots downtown.
That includes opportunities for owner-occupied housing. There are few condominiums in downtown San Antonio, but that could be changing, said David Robinson Jr., development manager at Weston Urban.
“For a long time … single-family residential housing prices have been so affordable so that it’s hard to justify building condos in that people didn’t perceive San Antonio as that type of market,” Robinson said.
“But I think we’re very, very, very quickly getting there. There’s a ton of demand and people want that lifestyle.”