Two additional levels of parking could be added to the Travis Park Plaza garage.
Two additional levels of parking are set to be added to the Travis Park Plaza garage. Credit: Courtesy / GrayStreet Partners

Two parking garage projects in the heart of downtown are expected to be completed by next fall and add hundreds of parking spaces, but they won’t make it much easier for the average downtown visitor to find parking during the work week.

GrayStreet Partners has received conceptual approval from the Historic and Design Review Commission to add two levels to the parking garage at the Travis Park Plaza building. The project, at 213 E. Travis St., would add 255 spaces to a garage already featuring 799 spaces and would help serve an area adjacent to Travis Park and a block from Houston Street brimming with new office space coming online.

GrayStreet is one of the entities that has created some of that office space, with 63,000 square feet in the Grant and Kress buildings nearby. The company estimates those spaces will add at least 200 more employees to the area, creating the need for even more parking.

“We want to be able to provide our tenants and others with parking solutions,” said former GrayStreet spokeswoman Tomoko Iimura Alavi before her departure from the company earlier this month. “We currently don’t have other garage expansion plans other than the Travis Garage.”

Several blocks north, USAA also is expanding its garage as part of its plan to move 2,000 employees downtown over a five-year period. Creating more parking was included in its 2017 incentive agreement with the City. The addition will include a new elevator servicing the six-story parking structure and a new access to the River Walk.

The USAA project, designed by Marmon Mok Architecture, will add 192 spaces to an existing garage at 700 N. St Mary’s St. that already is home to 376 spaces for a total of 568 spaces, most of which will be used by USAA and its partners during the day. The project is adjacent to the USAA office tower at One Riverwalk Plaza.

Peter McLaughlin, managing director of USAA Real Estate, said those spaces will be open to the public at market rates on nights and weekends. The structure is two blocks away from the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

“We want to be extremely competitive in those buildings,” McLaughlin said. “We want to provide all the things that tenants want and need these days – not just USAA, but all of our tenants. This will allow us to have one of the highest parking ratios downtown.”

Parking ratios are generally calculated by the number of available parking spaces for employees per square foot. Both projects are expected to cause small disruptions to current customers and decrease the number of parking spaces available only temporarily at times during construction.

Downtown San Antonio has more than 19,000 public parking spaces, approximately 6,300 of which are managed by the City, according to John Jacks, director of the Center City Development & Operations (CCDO) Department. The parking inventory managed by the City will increase when Frost Bank moves into its new office tower and the City takes over management of the 700 spaces in the Frost Tower Garage.

The City also is anticipating the addition of 825 parking spaces with the proposed Civic Park garage at Hemisfair, which received preliminary approval from the HDRC in February.

Kelly Saunders, public relations manager for CCDO, said the City has not analyzed parking needs downtown recently.

Jacks said the City has worked to make more parking available and affordable to downtown visitors by offering free parking after 5 p.m on Tuesdays, three hours of free parking at Central Library daily, free on-street parking after 6 p.m. daily and all day Sunday, and a $5 parking rate at some facilities after 5 p.m. on weeknights.

“Parking is often the first experience people have when they come downtown, and we recognize our role in ensuring it is a positive experience,” Jacks said. “The City encourages alternate transportation options for people to travel downtown, such as ride share, carpooling, public transportation.”

Kyle Ringo is a freelance journalist based in San Antonio. He has covered business, college athletics, the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball for numerous publications and websites.