Now that Hixon-Cavender has finished construction of the Soto office building, the local partnership looks to the next phase of the mini-neighborhood it is developing on a key stretch of Broadway linking downtown and the Pearl.
Next up is a food-and-beverage market that will occupy two historic buildings behind the Soto and will include a courtyard for outdoor seating, said John Beauchamp, the chief investment officer for Hixon Properties. He calls it the Make-Ready Market, but that’s a tentative name.
The partnership probably won’t break ground on the market until the Covid-19 pandemic lightens its grip on the economy, he said.
“I don’t want to go too deeply into the planning, but I will say that we spent over a year designing the concept we have in mind, touring the country for relevant projects,” Beauchamp said. “So what we will ultimately offer is going to feel very new for San Antonio, and it will bring the best of what we’ve seen throughout the country.”
The partnership, between Hixon and the Cavender family, owns about 8.5 acres of property stretching roughly between Sixth Street and 10th Street along Broadway and Avenue B. The Cavender family once operated auto dealerships there.
Beauchamp declined to share much about what else the partnership plans to build on the sites, but said it will be a mixture of office, retail and residential uses. The office space will likely be concentrated on Broadway and the residential on Avenue B, he said. He emphasized a need for restaurants to serve the area’s residents and workers in nearby office buildings, including the newly-built CPS Energy headquarters, a block west from the Soto.
Around the Plaza
“In near-downtown districts that we’ve seen around the country, once the apartment market is established, more and more people are comfortable living in the district, and that demand brings more density,” he said.
The six-story, 140,000 square-foot Soto offers high-end office space with wood columns and ceilings and tall windows offering panoramic views of the downtown skyline.
As of yet, no tenants have moved in since the construction was completed at the end of September. Leasing has been slow because of the pandemic, Beauchamp said. He declined to say whether any tenants have signed leases.
“I would prefer leasing be faster, but I’m not concerned because of the quality of the building, the location on the Broadway corridor, and the relevance of this building to employers who want to recruit and retain top talent,” he said. “I think our building is particularly well-suited to lease in the post-Covid world because of some of the features we have to offer.”
Those features include an air distribution system that pumps air through vents in the floor, unlike a typical building in which the air comes from ceiling vents and mixes more with “dirty” air, Beauchamp said. The building also offers outdoor working space, including balconies on its second floor.
The completion of the Soto adds a large supply of class A office space—an industry term meaning high-end space—to the downtown real estate market. That kind of space is seen as important for attracting major companies and those in the tech sector. For many years, hardly any class A office space was added downtown while new office towers proliferated on the North Side. But the supply of such space has recently been increasing downtown, especially since the completion of the Frost Tower in 2019.
Three blocks down Broadway from the Soto, GrayStreet Partners is renovating the historic Light Building into office space geared toward creative businesses, and has signed architecture firm Ford, Powell & Carson and the San Antonio Express-News as its first tenants. Three-quarters of a mile in the other direction, Credit Human has built a 12-story new headquarters and Pearl developer Silver Ventures is constructing an eight-story office building called the Oxbow.
The Soto is unique among offices in Texas for relying on a timber frame structure rather than one of steel, Beauchamp said. Along with offering a distinctive aesthetic, the timber frame makes the building more environmentally-friendly because it avoids the carbon emissions that come from the production of steel and concrete, he said. The trees that supplied the timber pulled carbon out of the air, essentially trapping the pollutant in the building.
To build the Soto that way, the partnership hired a subcontractor from Vancouver, Canada, named StructureCraft, that was familiar with the method.
“That was a risk for us,” Beauchamp said. “Any time you take on a new system in development, it takes a lot of time, thought and effort to make sure you’re doing it right.”
There are two retail spaces on the ground floor of the Soto, one of them well-suited for a coffee shop and the other for a restaurant, he said. Another area on the ground floor could be used for either retail or offices.
Hixon-Cavender’s plans for Broadway join other major mixed-use projects in the area. Aside from the aforementioned CPS Energy headquarters, at McCullough Avenue and the San Antonio River, work continues on the massive Flats at River North on Broadway and Avenue E, a 283-unit apartment building by NRP Group of Cleveland and the San Antonio Housing Trust Public Facility Corp. The project includes restaurant spaces.
On Avenue B, across from the CPS Energy headquarters, Pabst Brewing Co. plans to convert a warehouse into a “culture park” complete with an indoor skate park, a bar, a rooftop movie theater, an art gallery, and retail space.
On the other side of Broadway, on the 600 block of North Alamo Street, funeral home owner Robert “Dick” Tips wants to build a mixed-use mid-rise of at least 12 stories, which would include 266 apartments and 196 condos, a rooftop restaurant and retail on the ground floor.
Portions of Broadway are currently closed to traffic, including a segment in front of the Soto, as the thoroughfare’s reconstruction continues. The work is part of a $42 million capital project in the 2017-2022 bond program that’s turning Broadway, from East Houston Street to Interstate 35, from a car-heavy street into one that’s more pedestrian friendly. It’s expected to be completed by December 2023.
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