EPIcenter, the former CPS Energy power plant on the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River now slated to become a center for energy education and innovation, will be constructed by San Antonio-based Joeris General Contractors, officials announced Friday.

The nonprofit enterprise aims to become a highly visible symbol for sustainability across the river from the former Lone Star Brewery, also slated for redevelopment, a venue for presenting clean energy technology and incubating ideas for future energy innovations.

The local construction management firm – which has the Pearl, Alamo Stadium, and Bexar County Courthouse in its growing portfolio of renovation projects – was selected among five candidates.

“They were all very well qualified firms,” EPIcenter CEO Kimberly Britton told the Rivard Report Friday, but Joeris distinguished itself, she said, with its dedicated team, attention to sustainable and environmental details, and its commitment to keep the Southside and broader communities tuned into the project as it develops.

“Land use politics are so important,” said Britton, adding that EPIcenter has already reached out to neighborhood associations and individuals that live near the facility on Mission Road, just south of Roosevelt Park.

Some neighborhood stakeholders will be included in a collaborative, two-day charrette planned for February which will explore the nitty-gritty details of engineering and design as well as the philosophical mission and functionality of the building and its future occupants.

Representatives from Joeris, designers from Lake/Flato Architects, and project manager Raba Kistner Inc.-owned Project Control will attend both sessions to see the ambitious vision through from start to finish.

“We’ve been committed to the San Antonio community for 50 years and there is nothing more gratifying than engaging in projects that shine a light on the amazing things happening in our great city,” stated CEO Gary Joeris in a news release. “This is certainly one of those projects.”

After the charrette, there will be other opportunities for the public to provide input on the feel, function, and programming they’d like to see at EPIcenter, Britton said.

EPIcenter and its energy sector sponsors hope to turn the 80,000 sq. ft., 109-year-old former power plant into a one-of-a-kind destination for innovation, research, development, and entrepreneurial incubation in the clean energy sector. Key elements of the space will include co-working spaces, educational exhibits, interactive artifacts, a 400-seat auditorium and conference center, outdoor venues, community gardens, and a restaurant.

Construction could take 24-28 months to complete, but won’t begin until a “critical mass” of funding is achieved, Britton said.

Since it launched in May 2015, EPIcenter has raised an additional $7.2 million in cash and in-kind donations toward its $74 million capital campaign goal. With $22.2 million raised so far, which includes the building and property valued at $6.2 million and soon to be conveyed to the EPIcenter, Britton said she and her growing team have not yet started aggressively fundraising.

Other than in-kind resource support, there will be no CPS Energy rate-payer dollars spent on the construction project or management of EPIcenter, which is a separate, private nonprofit.

The CPS Energy board room gives EPIcenter Inaugural CEO Kimberly Britton (right) a round of applause. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
CPS Energy named Kimberly Britton (right) as the first CEO of EPIcenter on March 28, 2016. Credit: Iris Dimmick / San Antonio Report

Funding for EPIcenter hasn’t yet made it onto the list of 2017 bond projects that City Council will consider on Wednesday, approve Jan. 19, and then send to voters in the May 6 General and Bond Election.

“We’re continuing to talk to Council, but we realize we were a little bit later to the process than other folks (and projects) were,” said Britton, who was named inaugural CEO in March. “It’s an uphill battle when there is so much competition for (bond funding).”

City staff and bond committees declined to advance EPIcenter’s $5 million request, but the final decision rests with City Council. Elected officials could make the project an 11th hour addition. Britton also has met with Bexar County officials to discuss possible funding.

EPIcenter will soon launch its membership program, Power Network, that will invite 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 residents living directly adjacent to the facility in zip codes 78210 and 78204.

The facility is expected to open in 2020 or 2021 and is seen as a key investment and destination on the city’s near-Southside where the $271.4 million Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation project, completed in 2013, has led to millions more in public and private investments including the Lone Star Brewery redevelopment, several apartment complexes, and World Heritage designation of the Spanish-colonial Missions and the Alamo.

The Mission district will benefit from tens of millions of dollars in 2017 bond funding, too, if approved by voters.

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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