Restauranteur Lisa Wong has confirmed plans to demolish the former El Mirador restaurant building in Southtown, which is listed as a local landmark, and build a new restaurant space, where she will move her popular Rosario’s Mexican Café y Cantina a block away on South Alamo.
If approved, demolition of the old El Mirador building will begin in the first quarter of next year, and take 9 months to a year to complete, Wong said in an email.
On Friday, Wong released renderings by Douglas Architects that show a new restaurant building clad in brick and large storefront windows, and with a rooftop terrace, facing South St. Mary’s Street. She estimates the project will cost $5 million.
“Our goal has been to develop Rosarios’s permanent home,” Wong said in a press release. She continued, “My focus as a restaurateur is creating a restaurant that our guests feel comfortable in and one that works within the fabric of this distinctive neighborhood.”
Wong recently applied for a demolition permit for the former El Mirador, and the Historic and Design Review Commission is scheduled to consider the total project on Nov. 18. Parts of the structure date back to the 1860s, according to the city’s Office of Historic Preservation. The structure, 722 S. St. Mary’s St., gained landmark status in 1988, after the city designated more than 1,000 downtown properties during its Center City Cultural Resource Inventory.
However, 35% of the original structure remains, says Douglas Architects. The original stone and caliche house, “is no longer intact, with only a portion of wall and lean-to addition remaining.”
“Unfortunately, with all the conversions, renovations and additions over the years, there is no house remaining,” said Andrew Douglas of Douglas Architects. “Less than 35% of the original structure exists, indicating a loss of significance, which is recognized by City and the U.S. Department of the Interior in order to make the case for demolition. Our desire is to find appropriate ways to integrate the remaining materials and elements into the new design, to pay homage to the original house.”
There are two small homes on the property: the King William Garden House, which will serve as a private dining space, and the F.L. Dixon House, currently occupied by Pig Liquors. Both need to be restored, according to Wong.
Rosario’s began as one of the first restaurants in the King William and Lavaca area 28 years ago, Wong said; the move would be its third downtown since 1992.
The new Rosario’s had to be redesigned because of Covid-19, and will now provide “roomier dining experience that responds to society’s changing needs,” with larger dining rooms and outdoor spaces. Douglas Architect’s goal is to incorporate historic building materials from the remaining El Mirador into the new building.
“I understand and respect the importance of preserving historic structures and the preservation of history,” Wong said.
Wong purchased the property in 2018 from local developer Chris Hill.
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