The owner of the Express-News Building has entered into a contract to sell the 1929 downtown office building that formerly housed the newspaper to an Austin-based real estate and investment firm.

Sutton Waller Creek, a company affiliated with The Sutton Company, plans to buy the building from Hearst Corp., the New York-based parent company of the San Antonio Express-News, according to a recent report by the newspaper. 

A purchase price was not disclosed. The Art Deco-style building with its distinctive 12-story semi-octagonal tower sits on 2.1 acres at the corner of 3rd Street and Avenue E. It has about 172,000 square feet of space and was recently appraised at $10.8 million, according to tax records. The deal has not closed. 

Hearst put the historic building at 301 Ave. E on the market in May 2019 with the publisher at the time, Susan Pape, saying, “It’s all about the real estate.” Rapid growth and development in recent years along the Broadway corridor made it a good time to explore a sale, she said. 

In November 2020, Hearst announced it planned to move the editorial staff to a building that once housed the defunct San Antonio Light, located at 420 Broadway St., once renovations on that building are complete. The move is intended to reduce operating expenses by 50 percent, said current Express-News Publisher Mark Medici. 

In January, Hearst closed the paper’s print facility in San Antonio and relocated print production to a Hearst-owned facility that publishes the Houston Chronicle. 

The Express-News moved into the building in 1929. Designed by Herbert Green, the limestone-clad building is located near Alamo Plaza. Sculptor Pompeo Coppini created the stone bas-relief above the entrance, which features panels representing labor, education, enlightenment, truth, and justice. Polished marble and mosaics fill the octagonal entrance lobby.

Sutton has been developing mixed-use and residential projects throughout Austin, Houston, and San Antonio since 1989. The company’s local projects include The Enclave at 1550, a 21-story apartment building in northwest San Antonio, and The Cloister, a church building renovated into a mixed-use commercial and residential development in Alamo Heights. Both of those projects were later sold. Sutton also owns several subdivisions of high-end homes in the Stone Oak area. 

The Express-News Building is Sutton’s first purchase of a building in downtown San Antonio, according to the Express-News report. The company plans to seek historic tax credits and possibly city incentives to renovate the building, turning it into a possible hotel, multifamily housing, and restaurant space.

A former printing plant on the site, built in 1993, would be demolished to make way for new construction, Sutton Co. Chairman Mac Pike told the Express-News.

Pike did not immediately respond to a request for more information about his plans. 

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Shari Biediger

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