In his early teens, Henry Cisneros unloaded paper from delivery trucks and did other odd jobs around his grandfather’s print shop on Buena Vista Street.
Decades later, the successful businessman and former mayor is returning to his work roots, relocating his own investment office to the same building, now renovated into a first-class, two-story office building.
He said it’s his way of keeping a commitment to the neighborhood where he grew up and where he still resides.
“It’s one thing to pontificate from a downtown building about what should be happening on the West Side, and then it’s another thing to actually physically be in there, trying to guide the process,” Cisneros said.
But two years ago, Cisneros envisioned something different for the Munguia Building located at 2201 Buena Vista St. – space for startups that had outgrown co-working environments such as Geekdom. The coronavirus pandemic changed his course.
People no longer want to work in shared spaces, and it’s becoming more difficult to start a business, he said. “It was clear that the original thought probably wasn’t the road we wanted to go down.”
In looking at the impact his other investments on the West Side have had, Cisneros could see that it made sense to relocate his own firm to the new complex.
Construction on the 7,472-square-foot Munguia Building is now complete, with interior finish-out coming later this year.
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With his business partner, Victor Miramontes, Cisneros plans in December to move their investment firm from a building they recently sold on Soledad Street to the Munguia Building.
Cisneros’ grandfather, Romulo Munguia, owned a print shop there starting in the 1930s. When the business closed in 2015, Cisneros acquired the dilapidated building. He later purchased the adjacent Wascher Clinic building and began a renovation on the entire city block along Buena Vista between S. Navidad and S. Chupaderas streets in 2018.
The two-story print shop building, to be called “The Shop,” as it was when Cisneros was a child, will house the Cisneros-Miramontes firm on the first level. The lobby will feature memorial walls, designed by visual artist George Cisneros, depicting the immigrant origins of the Munguia family and the history of the business.
On the second level, the George and Elvira Cisneros Research Library, named for Cisneros’ parents, will be home to several nonprofit education and research organizations, including the Shirane Foundation, which focuses on enhancing San Antonio’s relationship with Japan.
Robert Luna of Luna Middleman Architects is the architect on the project and Ozzie Alvarez of Versa Builders is the general contractor.
Investing $1.2 million in the Munguia Building renovation and an estimated $500,000 into the Wascher Clinic structure, Cisneros hopes to encourage other development in the Commerce-Buena Vista corridor that links downtown to the city’s West Side.
“Victor and I have a commitment to do our part to help the West Side catch up with the other [three] points on the compass,” he said, pointing to growth and development in other areas surrounding downtown, including the Pearl to the north, Sunset Station and Merchants Ice House to the east, and Blue Star to the south. “The West Side has not really been able to grow and catch up and so we’re going to try to do our part – gently, steadily to put resources into the quarter.”
The 5,400-square-foot Wascher Clinic structure adjacent The Shop will be leased to a number of business operations affiliated with Cisneros-Miramontes, including the San Antonio offices of American Triple I Partners and Siebert Williams Shank.
Cisneros is chairman and co-chief investment officer of American Triple I, an affiliate of the investment firm, Siebert Cisneros Shank. Triple I invests in and develops infrastructure projects around the country and was recently awarded a contract to renovate the cargo facilities at the Laredo International Airport.
“So we’ll have national companies with national operations, at least their San Antonio offices, in that complex,” Cisneros said.
Cisneros and Miramontes aren’t the first investors and institutions to see promise in the West Side of San Antonio. In addition to co-working space Warehouse 5 and an artist incubator, The Parish, the corridor has seen recent development come from H-E-B, Bill Miller Bar-B-Q, the NRP Group, and Cardinal Group, as well as from the Cisneros-led nonprofit American Sunrise and Miramontes’ development firm Mission DG.
The small business lender LiftFund has its offices on the West Side; Our Lady of the Lake University has long been an anchor there, and the University of Texas at San Antonio is planning an expansion that will draw as many as 15,000 students to the area. In early October, a new food and beverage spot, Jaime’s Place, opened to great fanfare at 1514 W. Commerce St.
The steady pace of new development on the West Side suits Ramiro Gonzales, CEO of the Westside Development Corporation. He called it the last frontier for development around downtown San Antonio.
“Given the choice, I would prefer to see the West Side develop incrementally in these small, kind of mid-sized projects because it keeps our corridors at a human scale,” Gonzales said. “Mammoth projects … are not in and of themselves bad, but having this balance of large and small and medium-sized projects, it just produces a better-balanced ecosystem of projects and activity within the community.”
The Munguia Building renovation is an example of the kind of development that builds upon the history of the West Side, much like the 1929 Basila Frocks project Gonzales is overseeing.
“I tell people it’s like everybody, one way or another, kind of traces their roots back to the West Side,” he said. “It’s quite the cradle of life of San Antonio.”