Los Angeles-based development firm BH Properties plans to launch a $9 million renovation of the 10-story office building it purchased in February from CPS Energy, creating about 14,000 square feet of two-story restaurant space on the River Walk, and a plaza with green space and shipping containers that could house a café or other retail businesses.
The office space occupying the top three stories of the building, 146 Navarro St., will be expanded to incorporate most of the surrounding patios, which the firm considers “dead space,” said Brian Park, its executive managing director of commercial operations, in a phone interview. In other words, the outer walls will be extended to the limits of the patios, where floor-to-ceiling windows will be installed.
On Wednesday, the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) granted conceptual approval to the firm’s plans on its consent agenda.
“We’re excited to be able to have a project that we think will make such a big splash on a community. It’s not often that you get to acquire real estate on the River Walk like that, in such an iconic location,” said Andrew Van Tuyle, the firm’s senior managing director of investments. The company expects to have a “long-lasting presence in San Antonio. Hopefully it’s a foothold for us to do more there.”
The building’s office space sits atop a seven-story parking garage with 605 spaces, which the firm intends to open up to the public for daily use. Aluminum panels with copper finish will be installed on the exterior of the garage, according to plans the firm submitted to HDRC.
Renderings included in the submission show murals on two sides of the building, overlooking South Presa and the River Walk.
“Our plan is to commission an artist to do some sort of mural, which will tie into an event like Fiesta and NIOSA, and provide a little bit of color,” Park said. “There are a lot of murals and art throughout the La Villita area, and just throughout downtown, so that big wall along Presa is going to be dedicated toward a mural.”
The firm plans to start work in September or October and to finish around August of next year, he said.
The restaurant space will have two patio areas facing the river, according to the HDRC submission. The firm is in contact with local and national retailers about occupying the space, Park said.
BH Properties purchased the building from CPS Energy on Feb. 5 for $22.3 million, according to county property records. It is one of six downtown-area properties that the utility decided to put up for sale in fall 2018 to help offset the $210 million price tag for the renovation of its new headquarters at 500 McCullough Ave.
» Main office building, 145 Navarro St.
» Navarro building and garage, 146 Navarro St. — SOLD
» Tower garage connected to main office, 211 Villita St. (portion owned by CPS Energy)
» Surface parking, adjacent to Mexican Consulate
» Villita Assembly Building, 401 Villita St.
» Northside Customer Service Center, 7000 San Pedro Ave.
» Former Jones Avenue Service Center, 326 W. Jones Ave.
The other properties for sale include the utility’s former headquarters at 145 Navarro St., the surface lot next to the Mexican Consulate across the street, and the Villita Assembly Building at 410 Villita St.
CPS Energy spokeswoman Nora Castro said in an email that the utility had not yet sold any of its other downtown properties. She didn’t answer a question about whether any transactions were being negotiated.
In June, City Council cleared the way for CPS Energy to sell the Villita Assembly Building by voting to transfer a 0.1-acre plot of land beside the building to the utility, after a prospective buyer found an ordinance from 1953—five years before the building was constructed—giving the land to the city so that it could expand the Arneson River Theatre.
By transferring the property to CPS Energy, the city cleared the utility’s title to the Villita Assembly Building so that the utility could sell it to the prospective buyer. County property records indicate that CPS Energy has not yet sold the property.
Richard Webner is a freelance journalist covering Austin and San Antonio, and a former San Antonio Express-News business reporter. Follow him at @RWebner on Twitter.
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