This article has been updated.

A 19th-century, block-long building built the same year as the red sandstone Bexar County Courthouse is about to help usher in one of the first new residential properties along the San Pedro Creek Culture Park.

The Historic and Design Review Commission on Wednesday approved with stipulations plans by downtown developers Weston Urban to restore the former Continental Hotel on West Commerce Street and the Arana Building on Dolorosa Street, in the Main/Military Plaza Historic District, as part of its aim to build a residential tower within the same block. 

The developer has requested a certificate of appropriateness to construct a 16-story apartment building situated between the two buildings and facing South Laredo Street. The building adjacent to San Pedro Creek will feature 255 units and garage parking for 432 vehicles, according to design documents. 

The estimated cost of site work for the project is $3.35 million, according to a filing with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, and construction is scheduled to start in September.

The commission granted conceptual approval to the project a year ago and approved it Wednesday with recommendations by city staff that all work is done using materials similar to the existing building materials on the site.

The developer plans to rehabilitate the front half of the three-story hotel and demolish the back half, which was added in later years. 

Closed since the late 1970s, the hotel later served as home to the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. Over time, the building’s storefront has been altered so that its current configuration dates to a renovation in the 1980s, according to design review documents.

Weston Urban acquired the property from the City of San Antonio in June 2020 in a deal priced at $4.7 million that included the developer’s commitment to build a residential structure that remains affordable housing for at least 15 years.

The developer plans to restore the storefront, install a new canopy to match the original, restore wood windows, clean the masonry facade and remove a rear addition. The rear wall of the original building will be reconstructed. 

Project plans by Dallas-based architects BKV Group show a courtyard connecting the development to the San Pedro Creek Culture Park.

Plans also call for renovating the 1926 Arana Building and restoring a historic adobe house facing South Laredo Street.

Work on the Arana Building opposite the Continental building includes repairing the storefront, replacing non-original aluminum windows, cleaning masonry, restoring the street canopy and removing a rear addition. 

A historic adobe house, owned by an early settler until 1849, also will be restored as part of the development. The asphalt surrounding the De la Garza House will be removed, grading improved to its original level and landscaping installed. 

Earlier plans called for the De la Garza House to be relocated; the new plans instead state that the adjacent O. Henry House will be removed from the site and relocated. 

The O. Henry House is named for the eminent short story writer who lived there in 1885. A new location for the historic house, which is not original to the site, hasn’t been determined, according to the application submitted to HDRC. But staff of the City’s Office of Historic Preservation recommended approval of the plan as long as the house remains in the vicinity of its current location.

The tower project is the first affordable housing project approved under the Bexar County Public Facility Corp., a nonprofit arm of the county that works to increase affordable housing and quality development. The terms of the agreement give Weston Urban full property tax exemption for the duration of the 75-year lease. 

In exchange, the developer must commit to renting half the units to people who make up to 80% of the area median income, or AMI, which for a family of four is $66,800. Up to 20% of those, or 10% of the total units, will be available to people making 60% of the AMI. All of the affordable units will not exceed 30% of a renter’s income.

This article has been updated to clarify that a Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation filing showed only the cost of site work for the project.

Shari Biediger

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