By Richard Webner | @RWebner | Heron contributor
In another sign that the downtown hotel market is roaring back from the Covid-19 pandemic, an Indiana company is greatly expanding its plans for a hotel tower on South Alamo Street facing the Yanaguana Garden play area at Hemisfair.
The company, White Lodging of Merrillville, Indiana, has submitted plans to the city’s Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) to build a 10-story, 347-room hotel tower on a parking lot it owns at 423 S. Alamo St., a block south of La Villita.
In 2019, the company had planned to build a 9-story, 275-room tower there.
The project will also rehabilitate two historic buildings known as the German-English School. The older of them, a one-story building constructed around 1858, will be turned into a restaurant connected to the tower. The other, a two-story building built around 1910, will feature hotel suites and a small bar.
The documents suggest that the hotel will operate under the boutique Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants brand, which has 80 hotels around the world, including ones in Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth.
Kimpton’s website says the brand will open a new hotel in San Antonio in early 2023, but gives no further details. Founded in San Francisco in the ’80s, the brand boasts of being the first boutique hotel chain in the U.S. It also touts its experience in rehabbing historic buildings.
White Lodging spokesman Mike Banas said in an email that the hotel will feature a rooftop pool and bar overlooking the city and a “street-level steakhouse” incorporating the historic buildings.
The company hasn’t confirmed a brand for the hotel but expects to do so soon, he said.
A June 15 filing with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation says that White Lodging’s project will cost $95 million, with construction set to begin in September and wrap up in August of 2024—though White Lodging will need to have its new plans reviewed by the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) before proceeding.
The 2.4-acre property on which the hotel will be built sits within the La Villita Historic District, and the German-English School buildings are city and state historic landmarks.
White Lodging also owns the Marriott Plaza San Antonio hotel, immediately south of the undeveloped property.
White Lodging plans to create a new courtyard between the German-English buildings, the OHP documents show. The hotel will also feature about 11,000 square feet of meeting space and a lobby lounge and bar. HKS, a design firm from Dallas, drafted the architectural plans.
The hotel will be on the other side of La Villita from the historic Hilton Palacio del Rio hotel. At the northwest corner of Hemisfair, Zachry Hospitality plans to build a 200-room Hilton-branded hotel as part of a $340 million mixed-use development that is now underway after a four-year delay.
Two years after the Covid-19 pandemic forced hotels to shutter their doors and in many cases lay off large portions of their staff, several ambitious hotel projects are now in the works for downtown, signaling a newfound confidence in the industry. Here is a rundown of projects the Heron has written about in the last year:
» Irving-based Shreem Capital plans to renovate the Aztec Theater building into a 77-room hotel operating under the boutique Marriott Tribute brand.
» A partnership led by the development firm Sutton Co. of Austin plans to open a boutique hotel “along the lines of Hotel Emma” in the former offices of the San Antonio Express-News.
» In February, local developer Weston Urban bought the historic Koehler House north of downtown to turn it into a hotel, restaurant and entertainment space.
» In January, CPS Energy sold its former headquarters on the River Walk to Blueprint Hospitality, a real estate company with offices in Houston and Chicago that is setting out to renovate it into a hotel.
» An unknown development team submitted plans to the city last summer to replace the former WOAI-TV building on the River Walk with a 29-story tower with a hotel and condos.
» Last June, two firms from outside Texas bought the Wyndham San Antonio River Walk hotel with plans to spend $50 million to turn it into a luxury InterContinental Hotel.
» In St. Paul Square, the Hagee Hospitality Group is converting the Best Western on East Commerce Street into the Aiden by Best Western, which will include a speakeasy.
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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