The initial design for an eight-story River Walk hotel was approved by the Historic and Design Review Commission on Wednesday.
The 112-room hotel, slated for a 0.2-acre patch of land at 151 E. Travis St., is being developed by California-based Harris Bay, the firm that’s co-developing the long-anticipated $150 million, mixed-use Essex Modern City on the near East Side.
Construction could start in October or November, and take 15 to 18 months to complete, said Harris Bay co-owner Jake Harris, who declined to disclose the total cost of the project.
The Artista will have between 10,000 and 15,000 square feet of restaurant space on the river and street levels.
“We believe the Hilton, Marriott, beige-room is very well represented in San Antonio,” said Harris. “This is a little outside of that standard Marriott room.”
Harris Bay is currently selecting a firm to manage the hotel.
This year, the property on East Travis Street was appraised at $2 million by the Bexar Appraisal District. On April 29, working under an LLC called IconicOZ Artista Fund, Harris Bay purchased the property for nearly $2.2 million from Key West, Florida-based Seaside Hospitality Corporation, according to county deed records.
LLCs like IconicOZ Artista Fund act as investment funds, which developers can use to purchase property or land in federally-designated “opportunity zones,” according to the Economic Innovation Group.
These accounts are possible under $1.5 trillion tax bill President Donald Trump signed into law in late 2017. The bill gives real estate developers tax breaks when they build projects in “high-poverty communities,” according to the city’s Neighborhood Housing and Services department (NHSD).
Under the program, Harris Bay doesn’t have to pay capital gains taxes on the property—the tax on profit from the sale of a property held for more than a year—until 2026.
The Artista hotel project site is in the “DownTown” zone, one of 24 opportunity zones in Bexar County.
Previous owner Seaside Hospitality planned to develop a seven-story hotel, but abandoned the project last year because of high construction costs, the San Antonio Express News reported last year. The one-story retail building that stood there previously was demolished to make way for the project.
Harris said Harris Bay initially passed on the project because of how expensive it was to construct a hotel downtown, but says the capital gains tax deferment was an incentive to take on the project, thinking the group could attract more investors.
The project’s site will need an archeological dig, because the land is near two recorded archeological sites, according to a review of the city’s Office of Historic Preservation. Harris said the dig could take a few weeks to a month, but he doesn’t expect it to delay the project’s construction start in the fall.
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