The Kress Building at 311 East Houston Street. Photo by Scott Ball.
WeWork will open a downtown San Antonio co-working space in late 2019, taking over five floors of the Kress Building. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

In a development that local tech leaders said legitimizes the city’s growing tech district, New York City-based WeWork will open a downtown San Antonio co-working space in late 2019, the company confirmed Friday.

The co-working giant says it has leased five floors of the historic Kress Building at 315 E. Houston St. According to the Bexar Central Appraisal District website, GrayStreet Properties owns the $4.9 million building, which houses other tech small businesses but is still half vacant.

WeWork will be located just two blocks away from homegrown co-working space and tech incubator Geekdom, which has about 1,800 members at its Rand Building home in San Antonio’s burgeoning tech district. The district first took root five years ago when many of the historic vacant and underutilized buildings became hot properties amid what has become a wave of resale and redevelopment.

The coming San Antonio WeWork, which operates locations in 24 American cities, will have space to accommodate more than 1,100 members, a spokeswoman for the company said.

“We have had our eye on San Antonio for a while and we are thrilled to be expanding the WeWork footprint in Texas.” said Nathan Lenahan, general manager for WeWork’s Texas & Mountain West Region, in a statement. “This location is our 13th in Texas, and it is the perfect space. We are excited to see our member community continue to grow and flourish in a city as amazing as San Antonio.”

Geekdom Chairman Lorenzo Gomez welcomed WeWork to the neighborhood, saying the company’s arrival legitimizes San Antonio as a veritable tech city.

“You don’t have a real ecosystem until someone else shows up,” Gomez said. “It’s one of those things we’ve been hoping for for many years.”

Gomez, a former Geekdom CEO, said he doesn’t see WeWork and Geekdom as competitors.

“I think we’re just in a different category than WeWork,” he said, adding he sees himself referring potential clients to the more-upscale WeWork in the future. “I’m actually really happy they’re here.”

A base membership at Geekdom costs about $50 a month while the starting membership plan at WeWork – for access to common areas and unassigned desk – is $190 a month, according to the company’s website.

WeWork offers credits so that members can use their collaborative space in its other locations. In addition to the U.S. co-working spaces, WeWork has locations in dozens of other countries. The company has more than 250,000 members across nearly 300 locations globally.

Member companies can also opt for human resources services through WeWork, which could provide members with such benefits as health insurance, retirement plans, and Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) coverage.

A WeWork common space and conference room in Houston, Texas.
A WeWork common space and conference room in Houston, Texas. Credit: Courtesy / WeWork

Matthew Espinoza, who aggregates local tech events for the site, tweeted he would like the opportunity to work at other locations while traveling.

“Feel like I’ve heard rumors about it forever,” Espinoza tweeted. “Great to see it taking shape.”

Tech Bloc CEO David Heard, who advocates for the local tech sector, said there will be some overlap between the two entities, but they will serve the local tech scene in different ways.

“It’s always good news when you have not only new investment in our downtown but a marquee name like WeWork,” Heard said. “This is the world’s most successful coworking corporate entity. People may rush to compare WeWork with Geekdom. For me, it’s not about that; it’s about San Antonio and our downtown and building a portfolio of amenities for live, work, play.”

The arrival of WeWork in San Antonio has long been rumored, but sources familiar with the negotiations say talks hit a snag earlier in the summer.

Danny Chavez, vice president of business development at the San Antonio Economic Development Fund, managed the project to bring WeWork to the city.

“We are thrilled to welcome a new co-working space to our San Antonio community offering entrepreneurs, freelancer, and small business owners a flexible space to work,” Chavez said. “Resources and creative spaces like WeWork are critical to the continued growth of San Antonio’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

WeWork’s arrival will add to the vibrancy of downtown, Centro spokesman Eddie Romero said.

“It’s another signal that downtown is in demand,” Romero said. “It speaks to the work that’s been taking place over the past five years in growing the tech district and the tech ecosystem. It could potentially be a great resource for entrepreneurs and small businesses here in San Antonio.”

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.