Across the river from the Lone Star Brewery, there is a cluster of buildings that served for nearly a century as the workshop of Meier Bros. Monuments, a maker of headstones—which is why you can still find headstones there, east of South St. Mary’s Street, by the railroad tracks, dating from the 1930s and 1950s, half-hidden in a patch of weeds.
Meier Bros. has operated out of Comal County since local firm Bakke Development Corp. purchased the property in 2019. Now, Bakke is looking to redevelop the site, and adjacent properties—on either side of South St. Mary’s, just north of its intersection with Mission Road—as an ice house and retail complex with easy access to the Mission Reach stretch of the San Antonio River.
Bakke, a local developer of apartment complexes and retail centers, has already finished the project’s first phase, rehabbing a 1950s-era warehouse at 207 Roosevelt Ave. into an office for its own use. The firm moved into the office in May, said Brandt Bakke, an associate developer there.
The next phase is to restore an old metal structure into an ice house, with a lawn that could be used for events or concerts, as well as a pedestrian entrance facing the northeast corner of St. Mary’s and Lone Star Boulevard.
“The idea there is, in order to really get this whole project going from where it is now to where we want it to be, you really have to activate this corner,” Bakke said. “That’s what’s really going to be the draw.”
The firm has purchased two old grain silos from a feed store off of South Flores Street to frame the entrance, he said.
Plans for the development, which has yet to be named, are in flux, and it isn’t clear when work on the next phases will begin. The firm hopes to develop retail space elsewhere on the site—perhaps a restaurant in an old house on Roosevelt, and a coffee shop in a thin building beside it with a distinctive carving of fruit above its doorway.
In all, Bakke owns about 2.5 acres of land on both sides of St. Mary’s, including a former railroad bridge over the street, which pedestrians could use to go between the properties, or which might even feature restaurant seating, Bakke said.
The 0.62-acre property that the firm owns along the river, on the west side of St. Mary’s—featuring a weathered sign with a big red arrow pointing to the Lone Star Brewery—might work well as the site of a bicycle or kayak shop, he said.
“Our thought process is, establish the recreational use of the property with the ice house concept, and at least be able to attract people out here. And then you can start to build out these other pieces, whether it be one of these restaurant concepts, or maybe even do another office concept or something like that,” Bakke said. “But that’s kind of far down the line.”
The idea is that the development could act as a hub for the Mission Trail, he said, in the same way that the Katy Trail Ice House acts as a hub along Dallas’s Katy Trail. Cyclists might stop there for a beer after a long trail ride.
San Antonio doesn’t have many neighborhood ice houses of the size of what the firm is proposing, Bakke said.
“Not to say that we don’t have these concepts, but we don’t have one that I would say is quite this robust. I mean, we have the Pearl, right, but that’s on a much greater scale. On the more just your local neighborhood ice house-type play, that’s really well-built? We don’t quite have that,” he said. “Basically, where do you go watch a football game on a Saturday in San Antonio? It’s hard to find a place to go do that.”
The development would be about three-quarters of a mile down the San Antonio River from the Blue Star Arts Complex, and directly across the river from where a partnership between GrayStreet Partners and the Midway development company of Houston hope to conduct a $596 million rehabilitation of the Lone Star Brewery into a mixed-use development with 1,282 housing units, 186 hotel rooms and nearly 360,000 square feet of office space.
In May, City Council awarded the GrayStreet-Midway partnership a $24 million incentive package for the project, which could help it succeed where so many past efforts to redevelop the brewery have failed.
[ Related: Council passes $24M Lone Star incentive package, despite community concerns | May 21, 2021]
Bakke said that the Lone Star project wasn’t a factor in the firm choosing the development site.
“There’s no guarantee there, so we wanted to look at it from its viability standpoint without factoring in Lone Star,” he said. “What we think is that Southtown in general is just a blank canvas for a project like this. We think that there’s good appetite for the neighborhood, and just being able to use the river right there.”
Meier Bros. Monuments had used the property as a workshop since the company was founded by Henry Meier in the mid-1920s, according to the city’s Office of Historic Preservation. As a stonemason, Meier worked on prominent local buildings such as City Hall, the Federal Reserve Bank building (now the Mexican Consulate) and the Nix Professional Building at 414 Navarro St.
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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The remaining headstones have birth dates of the 30s to 50s but they are not of that era. The stones themselves are of the last few decades and are either typos or were never picked up.