For many years now, the segment of Broadway between McCullough and Jones avenues — in downtown's northern pocket — has been dying a slow death. Once known as San Antonio's dealership row, the last of the car salesmen, Cavender Cadillac, left five years ago for Loop 1604. Other, smaller businesses have cleared out leaving building shells and other blight.

Now, the Cavender family has partnered with local developer Hixon Properties to develop eight acres in the area into mixed-use buildings that will include residential units and retail space.

On Monday, it all begins with The Soto, a six-story office building at 711 Broadway, where a plasma donation center last operated. Crews will break ground on the project, the frame of which will be built using laminated timber, the first of its kind in Texas.

"We believe there is demand for a new type of office space – not necessarily what is offered by traditional Class A office," said John Beauchamp, Hixon's chief investment officer. "The demand is driven by companies that compete for talent. In order to recruit and retain top employees, they need to provide a great work environment. This is the opportunity. We think the mass timber construction and the River North neighborhood put our project in position to meet this demand."

The Soto will offer 130,000 square feet of rentable office space, and 10,000 square feet of ground floor retail space. Beauchamp declined to give the project's cost, but said it has a 20-month timeframe, which would put completion in early 2020.

It's too early to tell how many other developments the Hixon-Cavender team will build on its River North properties, Beauchamp said. They own about half the properties on either side of Broadway between 6th and 10th streets, he said.

Through the city's Inner City Reinvestment and Infill Policy, The Soto will receive city fee waivers valued at roughly $93,000, and SAWS fee waivers in an amount not to exceed $99,999, according to the center city development and operations department.

The Soto isn't the first sign of new development life in the area. Since the San Antonio River was expanded north in 2009, in what is now known as the Museum Reach, development has been spotty. This in-between section between downtown and the Pearl has seen some office and residential pop up, but it hasn't experienced the flurry of development that the Pearl has.

A block west, CPS Energy has gutted the twin mid-rises at McCullough and North St. Mary's Street that once housed AT&T offices and Valero's headquarters and are converting them into the utility's new headquarters.

Up Broadway, next to the Pearl, construction has broken ground on Credit Human's 10-story headquarters. And other office buildings in the area are in the works by GrayStreet Partners and Jefferson Bank, the San Antonio Express-News has reported.

Renderings courtesy Hixon Properties. Photo by Ben Olivo | San Antonio Heron

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