By Richard Webner | @RWebner | Heron contributor
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with reaction from Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert.
Weston Urban has lately approached at least two entities that own property near the northern end of San Pedro Creek seeking to buy their land while mentioning to them plans to build a sports stadium.
Both entities—the Artpace San Antonio arts nonprofit and the Toomey Family Limited Partnership—own property in the southern half of the block bounded by Kingsbury, Camaron, West Martin and North Flores streets on the east side of the creek, and south of the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) headquarters and Fox Tech High School.
Late Thursday, Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert released a statement in opposition of the stadium, as it would conflict with a separate project he’s been championing this year called The Link—an envisioned linear park that would connect the River Walk and San Pedro Creek Culture Park with a walking path along a waterway.
The block is one of seven sites highlighted in a 2016 report prepared for Centro San Antonio and the city by the Barrett Sports Group as possible locations for a minor-league baseball stadium. It’s worth noting that the site is also one that’s still viable, as others identified in the Barrett report have since been built on, or committed to for other developments.
Bernard Toomey, a partner in the Toomey Family partnership, which owns 2.4 acres at the block’s southern end—the old Alamo Downtown Automotive—said in a phone interview that developer Weston Urban contacted his father, John Toomey, about a month ago about buying the land for a “triple-A team.” The partnership isn’t looking to sell in part because it would have to “pay a lot of capital gains tax,” he said.
“We really don’t want to sell it. There’s no reason to,” said Toomey, whose family owns the Alamo Toyota auto dealership on the North Side. “The land has gone up in value just incredibly.”
Riley Robinson, Artpace’s director, said that Weston Urban executives met with him and some of his senior staff within the last month and made an offer to buy the 0.83-acre property where the nonprofit has a parking lot and workshop. Robinson said the executives mentioned they needed the land for a sports stadium during the talks. The nonprofit isn’t looking to sell because it is focused on a planned project to renovate its rooftop into an event space, and because parking is so scarce downtown, he said.
“The parking lot’s really integral to our programming,” Robinson said. “We’re really focused on our rooftop right now and we’re really focused on the programming around that. To get people to come to Artpace, everybody wants to know where the parking is.”
Weston Urban President Randy Smith didn’t respond to a phone call and text messages requesting comment.
The firm is set to come into possession soon of the former Fox Tech baseball field, a 2.3-acre property that abuts both the Artpace and Toomey Family properties. The SAISD board of trustees voted on March 21 to swap that property for 2.2 acres of land that Weston Urban owns at the northern end of the block.
Kedrick Wright, SAISD’s deputy chief operations officer, said that the contractual language for the swap is being negotiated and that it will “hopefully” be executed this summer.
The southern half of the block also includes a 1.2-acre facility owned by American GI Forum, an organization that serves homeless and disabled veterans. Representatives of the facility couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday.
The SAISD and Toomey Family properties are across Camaron Street from a stretch of San Pedro Creek that has already been rehabilitated into the San Pedro Creek Culture Park, a walking park similar to the River Walk. Work continues on phases of the park farther south past West Houston Street; when all the work is done it is set to be about 2.2 miles long, from the tunnel inlet behind SAISD’s new headquarters to the confluence of Alazán and Apache creeks.
It’s unclear what kind of stadium Weston Urban might be planning and who might play there. Executives of the Missions, San Antonio’s double-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, were “unable to comment at this time since we do not know about these plans,” spokesman Jeremy Sneed said.
The block on the northwest corner of West Martin and North Flores is one of four sites identified as “Tier 1 sites” by the 2016 Barrett report. The other sites included the current site of the Institute of Texas Cultures, whose future at Hemisfair remains influx; a site on Broadway in north downtown, where a nightlife district has emerged in recent years; and the parking lot south of the Alamodome.
Other sites include one near the University of Texas at San Antonio’s downtown campus on the near West Side, which the city has since committed for the university’s expansion; the two other “Fox Tech” sites, one of which is where SAISD built its headquarters recently.
Potential baseball stadium sites (from 2016 study)
The report describes a financial model that would all but require some form of a public-private partnership.
City officials did not respond to an interview request on Wednesday.
Monica Ramos, a spokeswoman for Bexar County, told the Heron that Weston Urban hasn’t approached the county about the project.
The Missions began playing in San Antonio in 1972 and have been playing at Wolff Stadium since 1994, according to that report.
Weston Urban, led by tech multimillionaire Graham Weston, is the most ambitious developer working downtown. It is currently building a 32-story apartment tower at 300 N. Main Ave. and a 15-story mixed-use project on the site of the former Continental Hotel next to San Pedro Creek. It’s responsible for several transformative projects in west downtown, including refurbishing The Rand building, home to the Geekdom start-up incubator, and as co-developer of the Frost Tower.
The Link, the envisioned 4½ block park connecting the River Walk and San Pedro Creek Culture Park, would go straight through the southern half of the block where Weston Urban is seeking to buy property, between the site which the firm is set to get from SAISD and the Toomey Family land. Calvert, who represents Precinct 4, is a strong advocate of the project, which is receiving $41.2 million from the county’s 2022 budget.
“Spending taxpayer dollars on a minor league sports stadium does not make sense when there are so many more pressing issues at the family kitchen table,” Calvert said in a statement late Thursday. “People are concerned with the high prices of gas, food, public safety, and housing. There is no support from property owners for a stadium, and there are other places to build a stadium in Bexar County.”
He continued, “The only logical project to finish San Antonio’s historic River Walk is The Link, which advances and enhances the River Walk and truly reflects our community’s broader vision.”
On Wednesday, Mayor Ron Nirenberg did not respond to an interview request via text.
Robinson, the director of Artpace, pointed to The Link as a reason for hanging on to the nonprofit’s parking lot, which would border the park.
“We think that’s really, really exciting,” he said of the Link. “I can look at what’s going on downtown, and this is a great place to be.”
Clarification: This article has been update to reflect that the 2016 Barrett study was completed for Centro San Antonio, and the city.
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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