Weston Urban’s plan to build downtown’s tallest residential building, a 32-story apartment tower in west downtown, took a step forward on Wednesday when the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) gave a thumbs-up to its design.
The commission made no comment as it granted conceptual approval for the design of the roughly 400-foot-tall tower, 305 Soledad St., which would single-handedly create a market for high-rise urban living in San Antonio.
The approval stipulated that Weston Urban find a way to screen parts of the exterior of the parking garage that will occupy six stories in the lower part of the tower, along with a few other minor requests.
Patti Zaiontz, president of the Conservation Society of San Antonio, submitted a letter to the HDRC expressing concern that the tower would be “excessively tall,” overwhelming nearby historic buildings such as the Weston Urban’s Rand Building, where Geekdom is based, and the Robert E. Lee Apartments.
City staff noted on the HDRC agenda that they consider the tower’s height appropriate and that nearby buildings such as Weston Centre and Frost Tower are of similar height. Zaiontz wasn’t available for comment on Wednesday afternoon.
Randy Smith, Weston Urban’s president, declined to comment.
The Conservation Society also opposes Weston Urban’s request that the city abandon its right-of-way on aerial space above North Main Avenue’s sidewalk so that the tower can have a cantilevered parking garage. The city’s Planning Commission approved that request in November.
The tower will have 351 residential units and 7,250 square feet of ground-floor retail space, according to the agenda. Construction is expected to begin mid-next year. The 0.87-acre building site is currently a parking lot.
Most of the tower’s exterior will consist of grey brick and exposed concrete, but the lower levels will have an exterior of earth-colored brick, renderings show.
Weston Urban is likely to receive $7.6 million in city incentives, which includes an estimated $6.6 million, 75% rebate on city property taxes over 15 years. The other 25% of the rebate, or $2.2 million, will feed the city’s affordable housing fund. The local developer is also expected to receive $1 million in SAWS impact fee waivers.
At a meeting in October, members of the HDRC’s design review committee complimented Weston Urban on the “beautiful” design. One member expressed concern that the grey brick exterior is out of character for San Antonio, but others said they did not share that concern.
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