The EPIcenter has a prime location on the Mission Reach.
The EPIcenter has a prime location on the Mission Reach. Credit: Iris Dimmick / San Antonio Report

Design teams will be working through the summer to finalize plans for the $74.5 million EPIcenter on the San Antonio River’s Mission Reach. Meanwhile, the center’s ambitious fundraising and programming efforts are well underway.

EPIcenter representatives joined Joeris General Contractor CEO Gary Joeris and Lake|Flato Architects Associate Jennifer Young on a media tour of the 80,000 sq. ft., 109-year-old historic former power plant that will feature a think tank, fabrication laboratory, exhibit space, conference center, community center, and outdoor venues that focus on energy innovation and industry.

Birds called to each other throughout the four stories of criss-crossed steel beams and concrete. One section of the building is open air from the basement/turbine level to the ceiling, where designers imagine a “majestic” public entranceway or hall.

“The bones and the structure of this building are in amazing shape,” Young said. “It’s actually more robust than we need it to be.”

Design, construction, engineering, and programming teams met up for a two-day, private design charrette earlier this month. EPIcenter CEO Kimberly Britton doesn’t anticipate any drastic changes from the initial, conceptual design.

Once the schematic design phase concludes this summer, Britton said, “then we’ll know more about our capabilities, plus we’ll know more about the cost. We have a dream and we want to implement it, but we have to make sure it’s effective and realistic.”

The two-story, secondary building could be home to a restaurant or other commercial venture that would share profits with the EPIcenter, she added.

“Being a restoration and renovation project, working with the existing facility creates its own challenges because we have to work with the existing structure,” Joeris said. “We’ve done a lot of LEED and green projects, but this will probably far outweigh all of them because this is based on the most up-to-date technology and system and processes.”

The fundraising process could take two to three years, said EPIcenter Director of Development Jill Vassar, and will likely run parallel with the process of finalizing construction documents. Meanwhile, EPIcenter will host community town halls and other events to introduce itself and engage neighbors.

EPIcenter, a nonprofit, will soon launch a membership program called the Power Network. Individuals and groups can join for $25-$10,000 per year or more while nearby residents can join the EPIcenter Neighbor program for free.

An estimated $53.4 million more in philanthropic, public, and private funding will be needed to complete the project, which officials hope will open in 2021.

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. She was the San Antonio Report's...