The iconic fire-red Dullnig building on Alamo Plaza—which was built in 1883 as a state-of-the-art retail center and now serves as the site of a mega-McDonald’s—has been sold to a company linked to a real estate brokerage from Austin.
The company, 290 Jones Investments Inc., purchased the three-story, 30,000-square-foot historic landmark on Oct. 27 from Dullnig Building Partners Ltd., a partnership led by local developer James Lifshutz, county deed records show. 290 Jones has the same phone number as The Jones & Jones Company, a brokerage specializing in multifamily sales in Central Texas, according to state filings.
Phone calls to Jones & Jones Company were not returned. Jeremy Jessop, a broker for JJ Real Co. who had listed the building for sale earlier this year, did not respond to questions sent via text.
The Dullnig is in the white-hot center of the downtown tourist district, at a bustling intersection that tourists pass through as they trek between the Alamo, the Shops at Rivercenter Mall and the Henry B. González Convention Center. A block to the south, construction is set to begin soon on Civic Park, the latest addition to Hemisfair, where Zachry Corp. plans to build a giant mixed-use development.
[ Related: Hemisfair’s Civic Park construction now scheduled to begin this fall | Jan. 16, 2021 ]
Yet it is the building’s history that sets it apart. It was built by George Dullnig, who became a successful grocer, banker, coffee roaster, railroad owner and oil and gas driller after immigrating to San Antonio from his native Austria at age 7, according to columnist Paula Allen of the Express-News.
When the building opened in 1883—with a dry-goods store selling hats and clothing, a dentist’s office, and a business school on its top floor—it was a technological marvel, featuring one of the first elevators in San Antonio. In 1894, a shop with an “arctic soda fountain” opened inside, according to the website of the Texas State Historical Association. The building originally had two towers and a cornice which were later removed.
The sales listing for the building notes that it is 47 percent occupied after the closure of the Riverwalk Vista Inn, a 17-room hotel that had previously occupied the upper floors. A space formerly occupied by the Five & Dime General Store on the building’s ground floor, at the corner of Alamo and East Commerce streets, is also now vacant.
Along with the McDonald’s, it is currently home to On the Rocks Pub in its basement and the City Sightseeing tour bus company on its ground floor.
Teddy Rea Jones, who is listed as the director of 290 Jones, created a company on Oct. 19 named 101 Alamo LLC, an apparent reference to the Dullnig’s address of 101 Alamo St., according to the Texas Secretary of State’s office.
According to its website, Jones & Jones has been involved in the sale of hundreds of apartment buildings in Austin and dozens in San Antonio.
In the 1910s, a street widening forced the demolition of the tower on the Dullnig’s southeast corner and part of its façade on Alamo Street, according to the website of the San Antonio Conservation Society. A photo from 1974 indicates that by then the Alamo façade had been hidden behind a plain, windowless exterior.
The building was at risk of being demolished to make way for a parking lot when investors purchased it in 1978 and rehabilitated it with the help of a federal tax incentives program and a grant from the Texas Historical Commission, according to the Express-News.
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