Local restauranteur Andrew Goodman‘s newest project, a not-yet-named Italian steakhouse and bar in the “retired” 1920s Fire Station No. 7, received final design approval from the City of San Antonio’s Historic and Design Review Commission on Wednesday.
“We’re doing steaks at Rebelle right now – people are really enjoying them,” Goodman said Thursday morning. “But we’re going a little more casual here (at the firehouse) … it will be a very approachable restaurant.”
If construction and staffing goes smoothly, the firehouse-turned-restaurant located at the entrance to Southtown and just south of E. Cesar E. Chávez Boulevard will open its doors in six to eight months, Goodman said, “probably this summer.”
The exterior of the two-story, 5,200-square-foot firehouse will retain almost all of its current elements and windows with some modifications and replacements – common in adaptive reuse projects involving historic structures. Several window panes will need to be replaced, window frames restored, but the most visible difference for neighbors and passersby will be the replacement of four large, unoriginal solid wood bay doors. The new storefronts will have glass windows and doors to create more inviting entrances.
“What’s going to be added will be much more modern – for that juxtaposition of modern and historic. We didn’t want to lose the clarity of what is historic and what is modern,” said Joseph Smith, principal architect with JMS Architects working on the renovation.”Generally the building is a stout structure, what we look to do – even on the inside walls – is to keep that exposed. Really just clean up what’s there.”
The more open, modern bay doors will connect the building more to the side walk and street level activity, Smith said. “It’ll feel like a part of the neighborhood. That’s what fire houses were – part of the neighborhood.”
Plans for the building previously approved by HDRC included a rooftop patio that would take advantage of the building’s view of the Tower of the Americas, Hemisfair, and downtown skyline, but that feature – while not entirely off the table – isn’t part of the short-term plan due to funding limitations, he said.
“We still have the ability to do that in the future,” Goodman said. There will still be excellent views from the first and second-story windows.
Inside will be a more extensive renovation – it was, after all, a bare-bones fire station when he purchased the “retired” station from the City in 2014. The building was appraised at $797,000 and was open to a public bidding process.
Downstairs will feature a lobby, bar, and some restaurant seating; the main dining room and and an open-kitchen concept will be on the second floor. And, yes, they are keeping the fire poles. They plan to inset a clear, glass-like floor to surround the pole and fill the hole that firefighters would rush down at the sound of an alarm.
“In some places there will be a booth or a table built around the fire poles so you’ll still see them,” Smith said. “That was really an important part of the renovation plan.”
Goodman has worked out a shared lease agreement with the San Antonio Independent School District for parking in the adjacent lot on Lavaca Street.
Permits for construction will likely be filed this month and Smith will need to come back to HDRC with a plan for landscaping and where the restaurant’s dumpster will be placed. The latter was specifically requested by the commission.
The project was unanimously approved by the commmission.
“This will be a great addition to the neighborhood,” said Commissioner Tim Cone.
*Top image: The historic Fire Station No. 7 is slated to become an Italian steakhouse by the end of 2017. Photo by Scott Ball.