Guests flood the lobby of Hotel Emma as the doors are officially opened. Photo by Scott Ball.
Guests flood the lobby of Hotel Emma as the doors are officially opened. Photo by Scott Ball.

The San Antonio community welcomed the long-awaited Hotel Emma to San Antonio’s urban core today after more than eight years of planning and construction. More than 100 people including elected officials, city officials, local business leaders, neighbors, and curious passersby crowded around the main entrance for an opening ceremony before taking their first steps inside the luxury hotel.

Archdiocese Director of the Old Spanish Missions Fr. David Garcia was present at the ceremony to bless the new hotel and its future visitors. The hotel combines luxury with history, a vision developed by owner Christopher “Kit” Goldsbury and his team at Silver Ventures, that started with the multi-million development of the surrounding Pearl Brewery complex. Construction continues on some buildings and finishing touches, but the completion of Hotel Emma is seen as one of the defining moments of the mixed-used development’s completion.

“Today is a very special day,” Goldsbury told the crowd gathered outside the hotel. “It was (on) this day 101 years ago, a very eventful day in 1914, that Emma Koehler was set on her path to operate, and ultimately save the Pearl Brewery, after the unfortunate and untimely death of her husband, Otto.”

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Emma helped the Pearl Brewery become a thriving economic and cultural resource, at one time employing 25% of the city’s population. The Pearl shut down all beer production in 2001, but the development of local shops, apartments, and renowned restaurants like Southerleigh, Cured and La Gloria have helped breathe new life into the complex.

“This is such an extraordinarily exciting time for our city, with elements of our culture really hitting the world stage,” Mayor Ivy Taylor said. “This building has been a hub of industry in the past, and in addition to being beautiful in its restored state, it’s wonderful that we’re standing in front of a project that has created more than 200 jobs for our community.”

Developers and city officials anticipate the hotel will bring in a new class of traveler to San Antonio. The local tourism industry brings in 26 million visitors each year and that number is expected to grow thanks to the World Heritage site designation of the San Antonio Missions.

Bill Shown, the managing director of real estate for Silver Ventures, thanked City officials who brought the “River Walk to the Pearl,” with the Museum Reach improvement project and worked with his team to improve the zoning and drainage issues that were previously associated with the area.

“They have helped us deal with these beautiful, historic buildings and give us the wherewithal and the ability to do what we need to do to bring them back to life,” Shown said.

Before the crowds rushed inside to get a glimpse of the extravagant accommodations, Hotel Emma General Manager Mark Yanke thanked partnering organizations, individuals, and staff members who worked to make hotel a unique destination for visitors and residents.

“We’re truly grateful and honored for this opportunity, to be a part of the community here,” Yanke said. “Wherever possible, we want to reach out to our neighbors here at the Pearl, downtown and wherever else we can to make sure we incorporate that to make San Antonio a better opportunity for everybody in every way. This isn’t just about the Hotel Emma or the Pearl, it’s about San Antonio.”

Guests flood the lobby of Hotel Emma as the doors are officially opened. Photo by Scott Ball.
Guests flood the lobby of Hotel Emma as the doors are officially opened. Photo by Scott Ball.

*Top image: Guests chat and admire the interior of Hotel Emma. Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Southerleigh Brings Brewing Back to the Pearl

New ‘For Sale’ Market Growing Around Pearl

What Will be San Antonio’s ‘Next Pearl?’

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Lea Thompson

Lea Thompson is a Texas native who has lived in Houston, Austin and San Antonio. She enjoys exploring new food and culture events. Follow her adventures on Instagram, Twitter or Culture Spoon.