A few years ago, when Weston Urban began expanding its west downtown portfolio, the local developer’s strategy was to essentially do its own thing:
Keep growing the ecosystem it had started with tech start-up incubator Geekdom, and continue that growth with the 23-story Frost Tower and keep going with other developments in the properties it was acquiring.
However, the strategy changed last year when University of Texas at San Antonio President Taylor Eighmy announced the university was expanding its downtown campus, which had stayed west of I-35/I-10 since it opened in 1997, into downtown proper. In short, UTSA is constructing three new buildings on Dolorosa Street—one for the new National Security Collaboration Center, one for the new School of Data Science, and another for its College of Business, which it’s relocating from the main campus. Other phases, including student and faculty housing projects, will follow.
“A year or so ago, along comes Dr. Eighmy and we sort of said to ourselves, ‘This is the collaborator we’re been waiting for,’ ” said Randy Smith, president of the Weston Urban.
Weston Urban’s strategy now is to create a “tight-knit fabric” between its holdings, which are mostly in the desolate western half of downtown, with UTSA’s efforts in the same area.
“Obviously we’re not in the education space business, but we think there are a lot of things we can do and develop in partnership with the university, community, and others, that will foster the kind of mixed-use environment that students will get excited about,” Smith said.
Meanwhile, the company, founded by local philanthropist and former Rackspace CEO Graham Weston, continues to add to its portfolio.
In February, for prices undisclosed, Weston Urban purchased the historic Toudouze market property at 700 W. Houston St. from 210 Developers, and the two-story office building on the 600 block of Dolorosa from Paul Carter, son of noted preservationist David Paul Carter, who died in 2013.
For the Toudouze property, 210 Developers had envisioned a 242-unit student housing project, but it never broke ground on the project. The project received an incentive package worth $3.8 million, including an estimated $2.1 million in tax rebates.
It’s unclear how much of the incentive package was given to 210 Developers, and how much it would have to return. An inquiry about the incentive to the Center City Development and Operations department was immediately answered.
Smith said the company is undecided on how it will use these buildings.
“Our goal in this neighborhood will be to play second or third or fourth fiddle to UTSA and its efforts, and to deliver things that are complementary,” Smith said.
Smith said Weston Urban is mindful of what all of the development means—especially it’s potential impact on the near West Side—whether it’s retail or housing the company is adding to the area.
“I think going forward you’ll see a mix of price points and product types, and local and regional and national operators,” he said.
The two properties are part of Weston Urban’s much larger plan to develop west downtown.
In the land agreement that resulted in the new 23-story Frost Tower, which is expected to open in June, Weston Urban also acquired six other properties.
One of those properties is the Municipal Plaza Building, 114 W. Commerce St., where City Council meetings are held and where the upper floors are used by city officials. Weston Urban will eventually own the building and convert the upper floors into housing units. The City Council chambers will remain.
The deal also includes the San Fernando Gym, 319 W. Travis St., and the green space in front of the new Frost Tower, which it is converting into more of a park. It also owns a handful of parking lots in the area, some it purchased outright, and some it’s acquiring through the tri-party deal.
Under that agreement, Weston Urban has agreed to build 265 housing units in this area.
On Houston Street, the company is busy filling the Savoy building with retail tenants. Royal Blue Grocery opened last week in the Savoy, 122 E. Houston St., and 18|8 Fine Men’s Salons is scheduled to open there in June. Other tenants are in the mix in the Savoy and the neighboring Rand building. In 2016, the company purchased the historic Milam building, with plans to update all 21 floors.
Eighmy was not available for an interview for this story.
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