A preliminary rendering of the Alameda Theater which sits along the San Pedro Creek Culture Park.
A rendering shows the Alameda Theater which sits along the San Pedro Creek Culture Park. Credit: Courtesy / Overland Partners - Martinez + Johnson Architecture

The City’s Historic and Design Review Commission granted conceptual approval Wednesday for some of the renovations at the Alameda Theater that will add room for Texas Public Radio‘s new headquarters.

The commission also approved, with conditions, GrayStreet Partners’ preliminary plans to redo the exterior of the old San Antonio Light’s print building and to construct an addition that links it to the main building.

Both structures are located in SanAntonio’s urban core, which has seen a recent uptick in office space construction and historic renovations.

The City and County each will contribute $9 million to the estimated $23-$26 million Alameda project through the Houston Street Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone while TPR plans to raise $5 million for the project. A conservancy set up to manage the theater has pledged to cover remaining costs.

TPR received a huge boost on Wednesday when Carlos Alvarez, chairman and chief executive officer of The Gambrinus Company pledged $2 million, the largest gift in TPR’s nearly 30 years of operations.

Alvarez founded Gambrinus in 1986 when he and his family moved from his native Mexico to San Antonio. Alvarez was instrumental in helping to launch Corona beer in the United States. Gambrinus’ three brewery brands include Spoetzl Brewery, which produces Shiner beer.

“Making San Antonio our home was an extraordinarily fortunate decision for our family; being now able to contribute to TPR’s building of its new home is very gratifying,” Alvarez said in a news release.

TPR President and Chief Executive Officer Joyce Slocum praised Alvarez’s monetary gift.

“This extraordinary gift from Carlos Alvarez presents TPR with an opportunity to make exponential progress in our efforts to directly connect to our community with educational, cultural and civic programs,” Slocum said in the release.

TPR will relocate its headquarters from the far Northwest Side to the newly built stage house behind the theater and construct the Carlos and Malú Alvarez Theater – a black box theater that will be central to the nonprofit’s vision of convening community conversations and hosting political forums and cultural performances in a prominent, accessible location.

The City is partnering with Bexar County, TPR, and La Familia Cortez to renovate the historic postwar building on West Houston Street and reopen it as a multimedia/performance complex and new operational and broadcast space for TPR.

Construction is expected to start in October and run through late 2019.
The entire restoration project is expected to take two years.

At the Light Building, GrayStreet and its project partners envision a two-level rooftop addition to its Print building, as well as a single-level underground parking structure.

Peter French, GrayStreet’s development director, said his company and architecture firm Gensler carefully considered input from City staff, HDRC, and community members, especially about incorporating the Print building.

This rendering shows the northeast view of the former San Antonio Light print building with rooftop addition. Credit: Courtesy / Gensler

“We took to heart the care given about the Print building and a desire to work with the restoration of the fenestration, color, and massing, and to create a distinction between the different facades that exist today and the new addition we want to put on top,” French told the commission.

Gensler’s Design Director Jim Shelton said his team tried to incorporate more of the Print building’s existing tan brick facade onto the rooftop addition.

But that got mixed reviews from commissioners, and City staff wanted a clearer definition between the old and new parts, Shelton explained. So now the design emphasizes more glass around the additional space.

“This creates a clear distinction between the old and the new,” Shelton said. He added, however, the existing bricks would have to be replaced due to current waterproofing and insulation issues.

GrayStreet will be required to again come before HDRC prior to construction starting. HDRC Chairman Michael Guarino said he was generally pleased with the changes, but wanted to ensure City staff and commissioners could have more time to look at the changes before the company proceeds.

“I am extremely pleased with the amount of work you’ve put into this,” Guarino said.

The McCullough Avenue Consortium endorsed the redesign.

“We are in favor of these architectural design changes that are in line with preserving the past but moving the city into the future,” said Executive Director Dawn White-Fosdick of Christian Assistance Ministries, which helped to launch the consortium.

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.