The midcentury modern Ranch Motel, once an eyesore on a stretch of Broadway still waiting to be revitalized, has a new owner betting on its retro cool factor and is on track to reopen later this year.
Boutique hotel developer and Boerne resident Jayson Seidman, founder and CEO of real estate development firm Sandstone, closed on the property in October. But through a deal with the previous owner, he actually began work to upgrade the motel more than two years ago.
With the complete refresh of the property and guest rooms comes a larger footprint. Seidman also purchased the adjacent 1-acre former home of Kiddie Park and rezoned both parcels in October.
While the motel gets a preservation makeover, to include repairs to its vintage neon sign, Seidman is keeping quiet about his plans for the site of the old amusement park except to say it won’t become a parking lot.
“I think it’s a valuable asset to have trees,” Seidman said. “So I think we’re going to do what we can to work around the trees, to create like a nice community space for people to get together and relax, and I think we will complement that with different levels of activation that I have up my sleeve.”
Rezoning both properties, from commercial to medium-intensity infill development, offers flexibility for future plans and minimizes parking requirements, Seidman said.
“We’ve ultimately tried to bank on the fact that [the development] is very, very much focused on people — walking, riding bikes, doing what we can to minimize the vehicular presence,” he said.
Staving off demolition
Built in 1948, the motel that advertised TV and music in each of its 26 rooms and carriage tours of Brackenridge Park had in more recent times fallen into disrepair and become the site of criminal activity.
In 2018, the motel’s owner requested the city’s approval to demolish one portion of the structure to create a commercial retail space and a vehicle pass-through from Broadway to the back of the property.
City staff from the Office of Historic Preservation agreed to the plan and the Historic and Design Review Commission approved it on consent. But the work was never completed.
In 2019, Seidman, who has redeveloped hotels in New Orleans, Marfa and Austin, was driving to a meeting at the Pearl when he noticed the “for sale” sign at 3101 Broadway.
When he called the broker, he learned that most of the interest in the motel property was for the land, valued at $2 million, and not the motel. The thought of the structure being demolished and replaced with something like a chain store, he said, made him sad.
“I like to think I did all I could or I’m going to do all I can to prevent anything like that from happening,” Seidman said. “I think Broadway has so much potential if in the right hands of the right people.”
A marriage of interest and expertise
Though the stretch of Broadway Street south of the Witte Museum extending to the area near the Pearl had become a “no man’s land,” Seidman said, it is just the kind of neighborhood that’s attractive to him.
In New Orleans, he turned a 19th-century orphanage in the Lower Garden District into the quirky Hotel Saint Vincent, and in Marfa, he worked with Lake Flato architects to turn the old Thunderbird Hotel into a minimalist lodging for the West Texas town’s hip visitors.
A former investment banker, Seidman sees his segue into boutique hotel development and management as a marriage between his talent and interests in culture, design and travel and his skill in finance.
While real estate development in the $23 billion boutique hotel industry is the “perfect canvas” to pursue those interests, he said, “I joke a lot I’d be a lot wealthier if I just went and developed 20 Holiday Inns around the country.”
But he wouldn’t be as proud of what he’s doing, he said. And though he’s had San Antonio in his sights for over 30 years, the right time and right place has come. He’s bullish on Broadway, he said.
The area where he developed the East Austin Hotel was an undesirable location in 2017, he said. But that has all changed as the East Side of Austin has attracted explosive development in recent years.
“This little bit of section of Broadway has been a bit of a gray area … so I think it’s only a matter of time” before it comes back to life, Seidman said. He hopes to be the catalyst.
In addition to its location next to Brackenridge Park, the motel is also situated close to the Witte, the DoSeum and the Pearl. Seidman said that alone makes the property special.
When he started the project, the motel was in bad shape due to vagrancy and vandalism, but the structure was solid. He would not reveal the cost to renovate the structure, keeping and upgrading its 26 rooms, installing an in-ground swimming pool and redesigning the landscape, but said it’s “definitely millions.”
He expects room rates to be about $175 a night. Bookings will open in late 2022.
Seidman said design inspiration comes from the highly visible Ranch Motel signpost, with its sizable yellow arrow directed at the property and “kitchenettes” advertised below. A focus on health and wellness is also part of Seidman’s vision for the concept boutique hotel.
The former Kiddie Park space will take its cues from Brackenridge Park. “That’s really what I’m going after — I want it to feel more connected to the park than I do Broadway right now,” he said.