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The Pearl has long been known as a hub for high-end dining, boutique shopping, and the kind of event space that doesn’t feel like there should be a fog machine, disco ball, or moldy carpet on the walls. The Aveda Institute, Culinary institute of America (CIA), Nature Conservancy, American Institute of Architects (AIA) and a host of studio offices and home offices have added to the “mixed” in mixed-use, but with the massive expansion of the Can Plant Residences and the Lab Building, the development’s flexibility as a work space has blossomed.
“We had the chance to fulfill a mission,” said Joel Williams, director of public relations for the San Antonio Area Foundation, “We want to have a real center of philanthropy where [organizations] can collaborate.”
To do this, the Foundation has made meeting space the primary focus of its two-story office in the Lab Building. The first floor is largely made up of flexible space where non-profit organizations can meet, train, and make presentations.
The Pearl allows this vision to flourish by circumventing the hassles traditional office buildings present to drop-ins. Ample parking is the main amenity for the Foundation, whose network of visitors extends beyond the city’s Loops.
A $5 million private gift made the move possible. Williams insists that the choice in location was not about relocating to the new “it” spot, but about finding a location that fit the organization’s goals. The emphasis is on creating a visitor-friendly space, but the Foundation staff has benefitted, too.
Ford, Powell & Carson Architects incorporated soft lines and biophilic design to further soften the space, making it inviting to guests and gentle on staff members, who are grateful to be in a cohesive space. Walking along the curved walkway feature known as “the swoosh,” the office slowly reveals more and more space, accomplishing privacy with controlled sightlines rather than series of doors and tight hallways.
“Our new space has changed the energy. It’s the first time we’ve worked in the same place!” said Cassaundra Edwards, Office Manager and Board Liaison.
At its previous location on lower Broadway, the Foundation staff was scattered across four floors, interrupting the collaboration and efficiency of the work environment. The new location, staff believe, will allow the Foundation to elevate its service to community.
“We (do) need some more affordable lunch places within walking distance,” Williams said, assessing the challenges posed in its new Midtown location.
He’s got a point. The Granary Cue and Brew is a welcome addition to the Pearl culinary lineup, but you’re not getting out of there for under $13 at lunch. I’m not saying I wouldn’t pay for it every day. I’m just saying I couldn’t. But you are eating truly artisan barbecue here. The house’s craft root bear has more of a flavor profile than many wines, and the house bread also is artisanal. Weise Hefty Design Build‘s renovation of the turn-of-the-century Mueller House is a work of restrained brilliance.
The nearby Boiler House with all its well-preserved valves and pipes and brewery infrastructure is the latest iteration of the “go local” mantra of the Pearl.
The restaurant features reasonably priced, quality wines matched to locally sourced cuisine. If that doesn’t scratch all the right young professional itches, I don’t know what does.
Over in the Full Goods building, KGBTexas has made a monumental move, bringing full circle the high profile agency’s own efforts to develop and stimulate growth in San Antonio.
In 2009 the communications firm was responsible for introducing the Museum Reach of the Riverwalk to the public, as part of the continuing efforts by the San Antonio River Authority promote river improvements.
“Now,” CEO Katie G. Harvey said, “it’s running through our back yard.”
The staff at KGB Texas make good use of it too. Jeff Coyle celebrated the ability to go for a run on the most pleasant stretch of pathway in the city, and then make use of the shower facilities available in the bathrooms at the Pearl location.
After nine years at its Oakwell Farms location, KGBTexas has outgrown the space. The 18-year-old firm has been the largest in the region for the past six years, and has received recognition for many of their ad campaigns. Recently, they’ve taken on some notable civic initiatives, including Pre-K for SA and the aforementioned river improvements.
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The Pearl is the perfect fit for this new era of progressive civic initiative.
“[The Pearl] is helping San Antonio rethink itself,” said Harvey. She sees her firm as a partner in that effort. “It was time to look for a community that matched the kind of company that we were and are.”
Like the San Antonio Area Foundation, KGB Texas has found that their Pearl workspace is more amenable to collaboration and hosting clients. It took some time for staff to adjust from a traditional office layout to a more fluid workstation model, but Harvey said she already sees more collaborative interaction and idea-sharing.
“I can give my employees an office or I can give them a community,” she said.
She opted for a community, which is exactly what the Pearl is shaping up to become.
Bekah is a native San Antonian. She went away to Los Angeles for undergrad before earning her MSc in Media and Communication from the London School of Economics. She made it back home and now works for Ker and Downey. She is one of the founding members of Read the Change, a web-based philanthropy. You can also find her at her blog, Free Bekah.