Historic Sunset Station is getting a new name as its owners plan to redesign the former railroad depot and host more live music events.

Now dubbed “The Espee,” the historic train station on the near East Side gets its new name from train enthusiasts’ nickname for the former Southern Pacific Railroad, also known as “SP.” The railroad network shut down in 1996, but once used San Antonio as a stop on the Sunset Limited Route from California.  

East Commerce Realty owns Sunset Station along with most of the other buildings in St. Paul Square and is leading the renovation efforts at the new Espee. The new layout will include changes such as increased parking and upgraded indoor and outdoor space for live entertainment. A new plaza will hold up to 1,000 people, while the outdoor pavilion will hold up to 4,500, according to a news release Thursday.

Don Thomas is one of the real estate professionals behind East Commerce Realty and a board member of the St. Paul Square Association, according to the website. He said it was always planned to bring St. Paul Square and the historic train station “back to life.”

“We see the potential that exists here, and we are confident that promoting The Espee as a music venue will help the East Side of downtown to continue to grow and prosper,” Thomas said in a statement.

The move comes as the area around Sunset Station and the adjacent Alamodome is set to undergo significant redevelopment. Across the railroad tracks from the Espee, the RK Group sold its Eastside campus to a Dallas-based company, which plans to make the space a mixed-use and retail development. The Merchants Ice site sits a few blocks north and is slated to become a $220 million development housing a biotech incubator and accelerator. To the south, Sacramento-based real estate investment company Harris Bay plans to build Essex Modern City, a Pearl-like development for the East Side.

Events promoter Margin Walker will book shows at the Espee, according to the news release. The Texas company works for ACL Live, Paramount Theatre, and Mohawk venues in Austin, and at Paper Tiger in San Antonio. 

“San Antonio has so much to offer and The Espee venue will be a great place to showcase talent coming to south Texas,” Margin Walker Founder Graham Williams said in a statement. “We are thrilled to start building a quality music program at such an important staple in San Antonio.”

Sunset Station’s website already bears the new name. The new website will be formally launched in the spring of 2020, and upcoming performances and events will be announced around that time as well, according to Thursday’s news release.

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.