The small lot across from Main Plaza in downtown San Antonio at 100 N. Main Ave., which has sat vacant for five years, will soon become an 18-story office and hotel tower with ground floor retail.
The Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) unanimously approved the project plans on Wednesday. Building designers will have to come back for final approval of landscape, signage, and stairway security plans.
The large, north-facing exterior wall may become a canvas for public art, said project designer Randy Kelly of Forth Worth-based JRK Design.
"We can't do a lot with this wall as far as windows and fenestrations," Kelly said, "so it seems like a great opportunity to get with the community for a solution that would enhance both our building and the space around it."
Any future public art programming would also be subject to City review.
Restaurants will occupy the first two floors, followed by four floors of office space, then 10 floors of Cambria Hotel & Suites operated by Choice Hotel. The roof will feature a patio, public restaurant, and pool.
The tower will be built where a historic building, originally a Wolfson's Dry Goods and Clothing store built in the 1800s, stood until it was destroyed by a fire in 2011.
Commissioners were not wowed by the designs for the tower that were submitted in July, citing concerns over how the base of the building interacts with the street and sidewalks as well as how the building's design complements surrounding structures, namely the historic San Fernando Cathedral, Riverview Tower, Frost Bank Tower, Municipal Plaza, and County courthouses.
The design plan now includes extended awnings to shade surrounding sidewalks and minor adjustments to the rooftop and exterior wall design. The sidewalks will not be broken up by curb cuts, so pedestrians won't have to step up or down to cross over the valet station entrance and exit on Main Avenue.
"(Design guidelines) require that the pedestrian be considered first," Commissioner Tim Cone (D1) said, "not cars."
Cone also pointed out that the stairway leading from the sidewalk to the second-floor restaurant could become a convenient harbor for illicit activity after hours if it isn't properly blocked off. Kelly agreed to come back to the HDRC with a detailed plan on how the stairway will be gated.
The tower is yet another large-scale project slated for the area as more residents and businesses look to find their place in San Antonio's burgeoning downtown. The new 23-story Frost Bank tower will break ground a block away from the Cambria Hotel later this year, preliminary plans have been approved for the hotel that will take the place of the Solo Serve building on Soledad Street, and a block west on East Commerce Street a Hilton Hotel will go up next to the Esquire Tavern. There are a few smaller-scale housing projects planned for the area as well.
Top image: A rendering of the 18-story office and hotel tower as seen from across Main Plaza. Image courtesy of JRK Design.