Contextual model of downtown San Antonio. Courtesy of Pelli, Clark, Pelli.
Contextual model of downtown San Antonio. Courtesy of Pelli, Clark, Pelli.

Bexar County Commissioners finalized a record-agreement Tuesday to provide up to $3 million in reimbursements to Weston Urban LLC for the street and drainage projects included in its plans to build the new Frost Bank office tower approved by the City of San Antonio and Bexar County last year. During the commissioners’ meeting, some expressed concern about the overlapping construction of the tower and on the nearby San Pedro Creek Improvements Project, which San Antonio River Authority officials said was on track for completion in May 2018.

Construction on both projects is expected to begin this fall. Short term, downtown commuters and residents may experience some traffic delays and the din of construction. But by the end of 2019, downtown San Antonio will have the first major addition to its skyline in more than 25 years and a linear park to add to its collection of public space.

The $142 million tower, which will be built by Weston Urban just off of San Pedro Creek, will provide downtown San Antonio with 400,000 sq. ft. of Class A office space and serve as the corporate headquarters for Frost Bank. The deal was part of a public-private partnership and included a land and building swap with the City. Read more about the transaction here.

Weston Urban CEO Randy Smith told County Commissioners that the Weston Urban team was still collaborating on schematics with Frost, but that the groups would have finalized designs to share with the community in a couple weeks.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff asked how Weston Urban and other stakeholders would manage construction timelines that overlapped with the development of San Pedro Creek, which is expected to complete its first phase of construction by the city’s Tricentennial celebrations in 2018. The Frost Bank tower is slated for completion in 2018 or 2019.

Weston Urban CEO Randy Smith speaks with Bexar County officials during Commissioner's Court on Tuesday. Photo by Lea Thompson.
Weston Urban CEO Randy Smith speaks with Bexar County officials during Commissioner’s Court on Tuesday. Photo by Lea Thompson.

“It’s going to put 10 pounds of stuff in a five pound bag, it’s going to be real tight,” Smith said, adding that the groups would be collaborating closely.

The project’s architecture firm Pelli Clarke Pelli will ensure high-quality aesthetics near the creek, Smith said, but there will be various logistical issues between the City’s and Weston Urban’s construction, including the temporary closure of Cameron Street.

“We don’t typically like to see that grid downtown closed,” said Smith. “But we want a safer and more comfortable street environment.”

Weston Urban will be coordinating with the City and County to mitigate the effects of road and lane closures on traffic.

The Commissioners said that the public infrastructure reimbursement would be funded using the Houston Street TIRZ, as county money becomes available later this year. Bexar County Manager David Smith estimated that the that the County will collect about $1 million each year, and that they are well on their way to providing the full reimbursement.

The commissioners jokingly pleaded with Smith to avoid making the building tan or beige, like so many of the city’s existing structures.

“Thank you for the vision (for) the building,” said Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4). ” What you’re doing is growing us up a bit, in terms of design.”

River Authority to Hire Construction Manager

Bexar County authorized the San Antonio River Authority to release the request for proposal (RFP) to two local recommended firms, charged with hiring a construction manager-at-risk for the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project.

The RFP will require firms to expand their approach to possible construction delays, mobilization plans and the cost of services throughout the construction process.

Despite delays caused by design changes, officials expect San Pedro Creek’s first phase of construction to be completed in time for the City’s Tricentennial in May 2018. Click here to read more about the design changes.

The "floating island" in a widened San Pedro Creek with the removal of the Dollar Store on West Commerce Street. Image courtesy of the San Antonio River Authority.
The “floating island” in a widened San Pedro Creek, possible with the removal of the Dollar Store on West Commerce Street. Image courtesy of the San Antonio River Authority.

“One of the benefits of alternative deliveries, either design-build or manager-at-risk, is that there is a really big push at the very beginning to get the constructor involved in the design process,” said SARA Engineer Patrice Melancon. “A lot of the issues can be worked out at the design level.”

Though 14 construction firms attended the River Authority’s mandatory meeting on Jan. 29, only three submitted statements of qualifications. From those three firms, the evaluation team recommended that the project move forward with two local firms: Sundt/Davila JV and Zachry Construction.

When asked why there so few firms applied after the official meeting, River Authority General Manager Suzanne Scott said that several firms felt under qualified, while others “felt like the local firms would have more expertise on this project.”

Judge Wolff said he was concerned that the project’s timeline will depend on one of two construction firms.

“You know that Zachry changed a lot of the things that were in the initial requirements,” Wolff said, referencing to the construction company’s past work on the Mission Reach Project. “Some of the final costs were much different from what they first showed us.”

The Mission Reach Project was a different project with different variables, Scott said. “Hopefully this time, because we’re asking for the costs and overhead, we’ll have a better idea of that going forward.”

River Authority officials said the RFP would be sent out by the end of the week, and they would begin to conduct interviews with construction firms in early April.  Officials will return to Commissioner’s Court again on May 3 to recommend the award of Construction Manager-at-Risk contract and approval of the construction administration.

*Top Image: Contextual model of downtown San Antonio. Courtesy of Pelli, Clark, Pelli.

Related Stories:

Rapid-Fire Public Input Meetings Set for San Pedro Creek Project

Pelli Clarke Pelli to Design Weston Urban’s Frost Bank Tower

Weston Urban Office Tower, Property Swap Approved by Council

Lea Thompson, a former reporter at the Rivard Report, is a Texas native who has lived in Houston, Austin and San Antonio. She enjoys exploring new food and culture events.