A rendering of the street level perspective of the Frost Bank Tower. Credit: Rendering by Pelli Clarke Pelli / Courtesy Weston Urban

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The Historic and Design Review Commission gave its final stamp of approval Wednesday to the updated design of the new Frost Bank Tower.

Last July was the last time the commission reviewed the designs for the 23-story office tower project, a public-private partnership facilitated by Weston Urban – the tower’s developer – with Frost Bank and the City of San Antonio. Commissioners suggested a few “nitpicky” changes that would create a more vibrant pedestrian experience on the street level.

Minor changes to Frost Bank Tower's design were made to include more landscaping and texture.
Minor changes to Frost Bank Tower’s design were made to include more landscaping and texture. Credit: Rendering by Pelli Clarke Pelli / Courtesy Weston Urban

Updated site plans and renderings show enhanced landscaping around the building’s base, as well as a more seamless connection between the building and the surrounding downtown corridor.

“[The landscaping] is still evolving, but we’ve reinforced the original design concepts we had back in July,” John Lind, senior associate at Pelli Clarke Pelli, which is leading the project’s design, told the Rivard Report.

Once the glass-faced tower is completed in late 2018 or 2019, it will feature 250,000 sq. ft. of office space for Frost Bank employees and another 150,000 sq. ft. for other tenants. The design team has been working closely with that of the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project to ensure that the structure will smoothly connect with the adjacent creek.

Commissioner Daniel Lazarine Wednesday inquired about the look and feel of the tower’s parking garage that will open up to Camaron Street. Irby Hightower, founding principal of Alamo Architects, the local architectural consultant for the project, said that the garage will be constructed of channeled glass, which “softens the view in and out” of the structure and allows for more light to enter.

“It’s really wonderful to watch things on the other side of [the glass] because it’s a little obscured. So you see movement,” but you don’t see exactly what it is, Hightower said.

Some, including Houston native Shannon Deason, who lives in San Antonio and spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, believe the tower should be taller. Weston Urban CEO Randy Smith said that making the structure taller would limit the available square footage for Frost Bank, and “would significantly inhibit the “leasability” of the space.

From right, Weston Urban's Randy Smith, Alamo Architects' Irby Hightower, and Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects' John Lind give a presentation for the approval of the final design for the Frost Bank Tower.
Weston Urban’s Randy Smith (right), Alamo Architects’ Irby Hightower, and Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects’ John Lind give a presentation for the approval of the final design for the Frost Bank Tower. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

“I wish Kawhi Leonard was 6-foot-11,” Smith quipped. “We all wish things were a little bit taller, but we think the building fits perfectly into the skyline.”

Weston Urban is working with Dallas-based developer KDC on the Frost Bank Tower. The project will add to Weston Urban’s almost 20-acre portfolio within the Northwest downtown area, Smith said.

“We see [the Frost Bank Tower] as a linchpin in a larger revitalization of the Northwest quadrant of downtown,” he added.

The Rivard Report received some emails from citizens who were concerned about a portion of the Frost Motor Bank that was built out of 19th century limestone recovered from the former First Presbyterian Church.

While the live oak trees have been retained, the limestone wall of the Frost Motor Bank has been demolished. The historic stone will be used in the adjacent park.
While the live oak trees have been retained, the limestone wall of the Frost Motor Bank has been demolished. Credit: Courtesy / Sarah Reveley

The wall was, in fact, demolished along with the rest of the motor bank structure earlier this month, but the historic limestone has been salvaged and is being stored off-site, Smith said. “Our intent is to reuse the stone closer to its original setting as part of the park project. That’s the more appropriate and interesting historic reuse — to put it back from whence it came.”

Weston Urban purchased the one-acre park adjacent to the tower from Frost Bank in December and is still formulating a plan for the green space.

First Presbyterian Church moved out of its location on the corner of West Houston and North Flores streets in 1910, according to a plaque that explains the historical significance of the wall: “The original structure was converted to a variety of businesses until it was dismantled in 1982. The stones were then stored for reuse in the motor bank structure, completed in July 1989.”

Crisp, modern limestone bricks met with the 19th century limestone on the Frost Motor Bank wall.
Crisp, modern limestone bricks were blended with 19th century limestone on the Frost Motor Bank wall, which has since been demolished. Credit: Courtesy / Sarah Reveley

Because the motor bank wall was not an original structure, it did not have an official historic designation from the City or other entity.

Frost Bank retained several patina bronze medallions that decorated the structure, Smith said.

According to a Sept. 2, 1989 article in the San Antonio Express-News, archived by the San Antonio Conservation Society, the small medallions were replicas of the classic illustration of the biblical Pharaoh’s Horses.

These small bronze medallions, "Pharaoh's Horses," decorated the Frost Motor Bank Wall.
These small bronze medallions, “Pharaoh’s Horses,” decorated the Frost Motor Bank Wall. Credit: Courtesy / Sarah Reveley
Camille Garcia

Camille Garcia

Camille, a San Antonio native, formerly worked at the Rivard Report as assistant editor and reporter. She is a freelance writer based in Austin, where she is getting her master's in Latin American Studies...

Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@sareport.org