After the Thompson Hotel and Arts Residences proved that a high-rise hotel-and-condo tower could be successful on the River Walk in downtown San Antonio, an unknown development team plans to build a similar but larger project a block away.
The unnamed project would consist of a 29-story tower constructed atop the 1920s KMOL building at 1031 Navarro St., a historic landmark which for decades served as a radio and television station for WOAI-TV. On Wednesday afternoon, the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) gave initial approval to the property’s current owner, an affiliate of Sinclair Broadcasting. [ View the HDRC agenda item. ]
According to Emporis, the tower, at 324 feet tall, would be the eleventh-tallest building in San Antonio and the third-tallest residential building after the Grand Hyatt San Antonio, which includes the Alteza Residences condos on its upper floors, and Weston Urban’s 32-story apartment tower at 305 Soledad St., which is scheduled to break ground this year in west downtown.
Many things about the project remain a mystery. The HDRC application doesn’t say how many hotel rooms and condos it would include. A Sinclair spokesperson didn’t respond to requests for comment. Miguel Saldana, an architect for locally-based B&A Architects, which is working on the project, declined in an email to share more information.
The developers of the Arts Residences—a team that includes DC Partners of Houston and Universal Services Group of Boerne—are not involved in the new project, said Karla Dupre and Stephanie Rinn of Kuper Sotheby’s, who are the listing agents for the Arts Residences.
Whoever the developers are, it’s hard to imagine they haven’t been keeping a close watch on the performance of the Arts Residences, considering the similarities of the two projects, which would both be on the River Walk overlooking the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.
All but one of the Arts Residences’ 59 condos have now sold, with prices ranging from the $400,000s to $4 million for one of the six penthouses, Dupre and Rinn said in a phone interview. Residents began moving into their units in November. Most are locals, they said: attorneys, doctors, business owners and retirees.
“People were ready to move downtown,” Rinn said. “Obviously we had Covid in between, but when we first started selling—it’s exciting for downtown. It’s where people want to be.”
The only unit left is the one they used as a model, they said. On the 13th floor, with two bedrooms and a study, it is now listed for $1.2 million.
One of the drawing points for the Arts Residences is that residents have access to the amenities of the boutique Thompson Hotel, including room service, a workout facility, a spa, a swimming pool and 24-hour concierge and valet service. There are also restaurants Landrace by multiple James Beard Award finalist Chef Steve McHugh and The Moon’s Daughters, with its views of the downtown skyline.
The hotel, which opened around the time of the snowstorm in February, has also been successful, Dupre and Rinn said. Operating under the Hyatt brand, its rooms can be booked for between about $350 and $2,392 a night for a penthouse suite, according to its website.
There is a significant difference between the two projects, however. The Arts Residences received a $10 million incentive package (largely a rebate on city property taxes) from the city through its Center City Housing Incentive Policy (CCHIP)—the second-largest package the city has ever awarded for an urban development. Those incentives likely won’t be available to 1031 Navarro, because CCHIP is now kaput. Even if it were still around, the City Council, in late 2018, changed its guidelines to eliminate luxury condos, which it defined as those priced at $360,000 or more, from being eligible for tax breaks—a move in response to the Arts Residences incentive package.
Still, any developer can apply for incentives from the city on a project by project basis, but they require City Council approval.
As of Wednesday, the development team behind 1031 Navarro had not approached the city about applying for incentives, said Michelle Vigil, public affairs manager of the city’s Government and Public Affairs Department.
Upon meeting with the HDRC’s Design Review Committee in May, the project’s development team proposed demolishing the entirety of the two-story KMOL building, according to a report from the committee. The team is now proposing to keep much of the building and restore the original 1920s brick façade. It would demolish an addition to the building that city staff has deemed not to be architecturally significant.
The HDRC approved the conceptual design on Wednesday on its consent agenda without comment. The developer will have to return at a later meeting for final approval with a more detailed design specifying what kinds of materials will be used in construction and showing how it will connect to the street and the River Walk, among other things.
The KMOL building was constructed in 1920 as the home of the Embleton Motor Company, according to the HDRC agenda. It began to house the WOAI radio station in 1927.
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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