The Frost Bank Tower. Photo by Scott Ball.
Renovations at City Tower, formerly the Frost Bank building, are now budgeted at $75.1 million, an increase of $15.6 million. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

A round of applause broke out in City Council chambers Thursday morning after Council unanimously approved a major real estate deal between the City of San Antonio, Weston Urban, and Frost Bank that will bring a new Class A office tower, 265 housing units, ground-level retail space and consolidated office space for City departments, and – according to Council, City staff, and developers – substantial momentum for continued investment and revitalization in downtown San Antonio.

The Comprehensive Development Agreement was approved as part of six different ordinances that included agreements that solidified the plan and grants the sale of various City properties to Weston Urban for residential projects, construction of a new Frost Bank office tower, and the sale of the current Frost Bank Tower to the City.

The design phases of the tower and residential projects will begin right away as most of these pieces can’t really fall into place until the new tower, the most complicated piece, is completed in 2019. Overall, the deal represents 10 years of different development projects in downtown San Antonio.

“Now the real work begins,” said Randy Smith, president and CEO of Weston Urban, after the meeting. He quoted Winston Churchill: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Irby Hightower, principal at Alamo Architects, will serve as the local consulting architect for the tower – for whichever architectural firm is selected for the design. “He is my sage on all things,” Smith said.

Once Frost Bank moves into its new corporate headquarters its former tower will be renovated and made ready in 2020 for City employees. Weston Urban will then begin renovation of the Municipal Plaza building and announce whether the residential units will be rentals or for sale. By Spring 2023, there will be 65 new housing units in Main Plaza, right next to San Fernando Cathedral.

Click here for a complete rundown of the transaction.

As for the other properties, the vacant San Fernando Gym at 319 W. Travis St. and a parking lot at 403 N. Flores, those will likely be mixed-use, mixed income developments.

Once preliminary designs are complete for each project, they will still have to go through normal, public processes like Historic and Design Review Commission meeting and permitting.

Council members kept their comments short on Thursday, having been briefed on the deal and project specifics several times throughout the year and a half process of review.

“This tower will not be the last tower to be built in downtown,” Councilmember Rey Saldaña (D4) said. He likened the process of due diligence on City’s Frost Bank tower purchase to buying a home – as it will house an estimated 1,291 City employees, “we want to make sure the home we’re buying won’t come with any surprises.”

Structural, mechanical, and electrical engineers combed through the tower to ensure that the price was fair and that the City knows what it’s getting itself into, staff assured. Saldaña said he wanted to highlight the “level of detail” that goes into a deal like this – physically and legally.

“This is one of the greatest things to happen in downtown for a very long time,” Councilmember Joe Krier (D9) said. “It’s a win, win, win,” for the City, the people, and private entities Frost and Weston Urban. “I’m anxious to see dirt turning.”

Councilmember Ray Lopez (D6) reiterated his comments during last week’s briefing; praising the deal, but reminding Council that “there is a litany of things that have to continue to happen” to maintain momentum in San Antonio’s urban core. “There’s more work to be done.”

Council members Alan Warrick II (D2) and Shirley Gonzales (D5) were absent from the vote.

*Featured/top image: The Frost Bank Tower. Photo by Scott Ball. 

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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...