The distinctive Villita Assembly Building has a new owner. 

Commercial real estate firm CBRE announced the sale of the rotunda in La Villita to local private equity firm GrayStreet Partners.

CPS Energy put the 65-year-old building on the market in 2019 along with several other downtown properties owned by the utility. The sales price was $5.3 million. A listing price was not disclosed, but the building was appraised for tax purposes at $14 million.

The Villita Assembly Building is the last of the CPS Energy-owned properties put up for sale to help cover the cost of its new headquarters at 500 McCullough Ave., said a CPS Energy spokeswoman.

Two other properties owned by the utility, a 12-acre parcel of land on Gugert Street and the Mission Road Power Plant, remain on the market.

GrayStreet plans to upgrade and restore the Villita Assembly Building, said Kevin Covey, founder and general partner at GrayStreet Partners, and keep it as an operating venue.

Designed by noted architect O’Neil Ford, the one-story event center at 401 Villita St. is nearly 25,000 square feet in size and features a banquet hall, kitchen and basement, available to rent for private events.

Its inverted dome roof was the first such roof in Texas and one of the first in the nation, according to Ford, who said the building served as “a model of how to sensitively integrate new, very innovative buildings with old ones.”

Covey said the sale does not affect plans for the upcoming 75th anniversary of the Night In Old San Antonio, which will be held during Fiesta on April 25-28 in La Villita.

During NIOSA, the building is traditionally used to house the “Sauerkraut Bend” area of the event, featuring German fare, with the “Mexican Market” just outside.

The weeklong event is sponsored annually by the Conservation Society of San Antonio. Vincent Michael, executive director of the Conservation Society, said Thursday the group has already met with the new owners. 

A cultural dance during the NIOSA festivities. Photo by Corey Leamon.
Dancers perform in the Villita Assembly Building during NIOSA. Credit: Courtesy / Corey Leamon

GrayStreet Partners is the developer behind the revamp of the historic Light Building property on Broadway Street. But a large-scale, mixed-use project GrayStreet had in the works near the Pearl lost steam in January 2021 when it put portions of the 15-acre site it had amassed on the market.

GrayStreet also owns, with Houston-based real estate developer Midway, the dilapidated industrial site that was once the Lone Star Brewery south of downtown San Antonio. 

That group acquired the property in April 2020 through a bankruptcy sale for $14.45 million, then put it back on the market early last year. The 89-year-old Lone Star property has been the object of several failed redevelopment proposals in the last decade. 

In April last year, a CPS Energy spokeswoman said that the utility had received multiple bids for the Villita building and was evaluating the offers.

CBRE First Vice President Andrew Price, who represented CPS Energy in the deal, said he believes the sale to a local buyer will breathe new life into the venue. 

“The Villita Assembly Building was on the radar of many national players,” Price said. “After a competitive process, I am excited the property was acquired by a local group with a vested interest in the future of San Antonio.”

The building’s sale comes as construction that began in 2021 to rehabilitate Maverick Plaza continues. The project includes upgrading utilities in the historic site and installing a new fountain, landscaping, pavers and lighting.

Construction continues on Maverick Plaza at La Villita on Thursday.
Construction continues at Maverick Plaza at La Villita on Thursday. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

When completed, the plaza will be used to showcase San Antonio’s designation as a Creative City of Gastronomy, named so in 2017 by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

CPS Energy is a financial supporter of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business members, click here.

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.