Two major development projects in downtown San Antonio received conceptual approval from the Historic and Design Review Commission on Wednesday.
Two different development groups plan to put a mixed-use, mixed-income apartment complex in Hemisfair‘s Civic Park and, less than one mile away due northwest, demolish the Solo Serve building for a nine-story hotel with a river-level restaurant.
Both projects are in the early design phases and will still need final approval from the Commission later this summer, and both are part of the recent upsurge in downtown development.
Half of the apartments in Hemisfair – which will have front door access to Hemisfair’s Yanaguanga Garden playscape, eight-acre public park, and other built-in amenities of Hemisfair – will be reserved for residents that earn 80% or less than the median income, which was $50,075 in 2014.
The complex, named Acequia Lofts, had 163 apartments when first proposed, but the unit count was sacrificed for larger unit sizes as plans evolved. Local developer David Adelman of AREA Real Estate was officially awarded the contract after a competitive City bidding process in January. Plans are similarly in flux for the 3,000 to 5,000 sq. ft. of retail space at the ground level. There will be a 418-space parking garage that will be operated by Hemisfair. Residents will have access to 180 spaces and the public can park in the remaining 238 spots.
If all goes as planned, the Hemisfair project is slated for completion in time for San Antonio to host its Tricentennial celebration and the NCAA Final Four games in 2018.
That eight-acre Civic Park, however, won’t be entirely complete, said Omar Gonzalez, Hemisfair’s director of real estate.
“We can’t get started until the bond passes in May 2017,” Gonzalez said. Hemisfair is seeking $40 million of the $850 million 2017 Municipal Bond package. “I can’t promise what (the park) will be, but it will probably be a large sodded (lawn). There will be somewhere to celebrate.”
The park will shut down again after the Tricentennial to build out the full Civic Park design.
Two other, separate parcels along South Alamo and Market streets in Hemisfair will be developed into apartments and a boutique hotel by The NRP Group and Zachry Hospitality, LLC. Those projects won’t break ground until after the 2018 celebrations and will likely be complete by 2021, Gonzalez said. Only 10% of those 380 units will be offered at the 80% median income rate.
Design renderings for a hotel that would replace the long-vacant Solo Serve building on Soledad Street pleasantly surprised some commissioners, but also gave them pause. Plans for a 21-story hotel on the site were abandoned last year and previous proposals for the site were similarly out of scale with the surrounding buildings and San Antonio River, HDRC Chair Michael Guarino said.
“The scale of it is very appropriate to the River Walk at this location,” Guarino said, but “concerns arise” as the developer seeks to incorporate the crumbling 1914 stone wall along the River Walk into the design. When Merritt Development Group comes back to the commission for further approval, he said, the commission would like to see a more detailed plan.
While Dallas-based hotel developer Vista Host is working with Merritt on the property Vista is under contract to purchase, the northern 25% of the Solo Serve property will be retained by its current owner, Service Lloyds Insurance Co. Service Lloyds, an Austin-based insurance company, is still working on its own, separate project, but will work with hotel developers to convert the undeveloped land into a temporary public park, said David Merritt, president of Merritt Development.
The hotel is being designed by Tennessee-based Bounds + Gillespie Architects.
Yet another project proposed less than a block away on Commerce Street will need to come back before the commissioners with more thorough design renderings that put the hotel and office tower in “context” with the surrounding office buildings, parking garages, and Main Plaza – specifically the San Fernando Cathedral across the street.
“I can’t really approve the elevations because we don’t see it in context,” said Commissioner Tim Cone (D1).
Other concerns commissioners had about the proposal from the Forth Worth-based JRK Design included the amount of disruption pedestrian traffic would endure on the sidewalk due to increased vehicle traffic. The Rand Building’s parking garage already has an exit and carwash on the same block.
JRK is working with local hospital development group REM Hospitality.
This article was originally published on July 6, 2016.
Top image: A rendering of Acequia Lofts in Hemisfair Park. Image courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects.