Weston Urban’s plan to restore the former Continental Hotel and build a 15-story apartment tower along San Pedro Creek in west downtown won conceptual approval Wednesday from the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC).
The commission voted unanimously in favor of the $80 million project after commissioner Gabriel Q. Velazquez praised the “incredible creativity” shown by the development firm in its plan to rehabilitate the 18th-century Melchio de la Garza house and replace the surrounding parking lot with landscaping reflective of the historic period in which it was built.
Weston Urban went “above and beyond” in its plan for the house, which faces South Laredo, Velazquez said. “This team is the kind of team that we should hold up to other people that are trying to attempt the same thing, as a success,” he said.
Bexar County will likely have a “long-term stewardship” of the house, Weston Urban President Randy Smith said in an email.
“It will be lovingly restored in place,” he said. “It will be featured, celebrated.”
Weston Urban plans to refurbish the three-story Continental Hotel, 332 W. Commerce St., into offices with retail space on the ground floor, while removing a one-story addition at the back of the building, according to the HDRC agenda. Constructed in 1896, the building most recently served as office space for the city’s Metro Health department.
A new courtyard will be built to connect the ground-floor retail to the San Pedro Creek Culture Park, which the city and county are transforming into a waterway lined with walking paths and public art, similar to the River Walk.
The two-story Arana building, constructed in 1926 at 601 Dolorosa, will also be restored, with retail space on the ground floor and offices above.
In between the Continental and the Arana, Weston Urban plans to build 10 stories of apartments, with 255 units, atop a five-story parking garage with spaces for 342 vehicles. Weston Urban plans to buy that land from the City of San Antonio, its current owner.
“We are in the community-building business,” Smith said. “This particular little pocket of downtown has, mostly, been a ghost town for far too long. That’s all changing. The county’s investment in San Pedro Creek, (University of Texas at San Antonio’s) investment in its campus expansion, and the site’s proximity to major employers are all things we love about this site.”
Weston Urban has already transformed much of west downtown with the construction of the Frost Tower and the rehabilitation of historic buildings such as the Savoy and the Rand, home to the Geekdom tech incubator. It has attracted trendy retail businesses such as Royal Blue Grocery and Pinkerton’s Barbecue to the area.
The development firm, led by tech multimillionaire Graham Weston, is preparing to build a 32-story, $107 million apartment tower about a quarter-mile northeast of the Continental Hotel, on the block bounded by Pecan, Soledad, Travis and Main streets.
In June, the Bexar County Public Facility Corp.—a nonprofit that the county’s Commissioners Court formed in January to build mixed-income housing—±voted to pursue a partnership with Weston Urban to build the apartment tower, with plans to set the terms for a final agreement by August. Twenty-five of the complex’s units, or 10%, would be reserved for tenants making up to 60% of the area median income (AMI). Another 40% of the units would be for tenants earning up to 80% AMI.
[ Scroll down for a chart showing AMI levels. ]
Another historic home that sits on the development site, the 19th-century O. Henry House, will be moved to an undisclosed location, according to the HDRC agenda.
Smith said the development site was “not really on our radar” until UTSA President Taylor Eighmy revealed plans to greatly expand the university’s downtown campus with a School of Data Science and an extension of its College of Business straddling San Pedro Creek on Dolorosa, one block south of the Continental.
The development’s retail space will be “neighborhood-driven retail,” Smith said. “Dr. Eighmy is dead-set on bringing 15,000 students downtown and they deserve a pantload of first-class services.”
[ Editor’s note: For more on the development’s details, read “A closer look at Weston Urban’s 15-story mixed-use project” ]
[ Editor’s note: For more on the deal’s details, read “Bexar County, Weston Urban to partner on apartments at Continental Hotel in west downtown San Antonio.” ]
[ » June 9, 2020: Continental Hotel sold to Weston Urban for mixed-use project ]
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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