Courtesy / Byrne Construction Services
On an ordinary street ending in a cul-de-sac in a quiet industrial park on the Northwest Side of San Antonio, 1.9 acres of undisturbed land has sat waiting years for a purpose.
By September, some of the property’s beautiful trees will cast shade over parts of the new South Texas headquarters of one of the state’s most prominent construction companies.
With more than 100 years of experience building in the state, Byrne Construction Services has been behind many notable projects in San Antonio, including the renovation of the Lila Cockrell Theatre, Plaza de Armas, and San Antonio International Airport’s Terminal B expansion.
Byrne also built the Das Rec New Braunfels Recreation Center and the Seguin Public Library in addition to dozens of projects in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where the company was founded in 1923.
Now Byrne is building something for itself: a 10,470-square-foot office and warehouse space to anchor its South Texas operations. The project is still in its early stages, with surveying and site excavation underway.
Byrne South Texas President Tony Battle said the company chose the site several blocks north of De Zavala Road west of Interstate 10 because it’s in a burgeoning area of town where office and warehouse space is difficult to find. It also puts the company in close proximity to one of its major clients, USAA, and many of its subcontractors.
“To be frank, it was hard to even find [comparables] for our type of office in that area,” Battle said. “There are none even on the market. That area of town, every building is leased up. There are no buildings like it that are on the market. And no one is going to put them on the market because they’re too valuable.”
When Byrne decided to build its next home, the firm also chose to make it a unique space that would play a role in telling the company’s story and educating clients.
The building was designed to showcase different materials and construction methods the company has used or can use in its projects, Battle said. Elements that would normally be behind walls will be exposed in areas as demonstration pieces.
“It’s really about showcasing different building types and different materials so that when our clients come to our office, they can see how things go together,” Battle said. “They can see that we’re a builder.
“We can show them this is how board-form is done. This is how wood paneling is done. This is how the millwork is put together. Here is a structural framing joint that will be used in your building.”
The property on which the new building is being constructed was appraised last year for $513,390, according to Bexar Appraisal District records. The site is adjacent to many other businesses and backs up to a residential neighborhood.
Byrne plans to leave its current South Texas base of operations, near U.S. Highway 281 and East Bitters Road, when its lease expires in August.
The new building also will feature a bit of heavy timber, the featured element in Byrne’s latest notable project.
Byrne is building the first mass-timber, mid-rise building in Texas at Broadway and 8th Street. The 140,000-square-foot mixed-use building called The Soto, which was designed by Lake Flato and Overland Partners, is scheduled to open in February 2020.
“It will really be pretty iconic for the city,” Battle said. “There is one other project underway right now up in Minneapolis being built that way. This will be the second. It’s pretty neat.”
Thomas Sneed Byrne started Byrne Construction in the years before the Great Depression by sending personal notes to friends and associates promising to exceed expectations if anyone hired his company. Five years later, the company completed its first notable project, the Montgomery Ward department store chain’s regional headquarters in Fort Worth.
Byrne continued to develop clients and its reputation in the decades after the Great Depression, helping with the war effort during World War II by building large aviation production facilities for the federal government in partnership with other construction companies in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
In the 1960s, Byrne’s projects included work on the Kimbell Art Museum and Amon Carter Museum, both in Fort Worth. Byrne received the very first Build America Award for its work at the Kimbell. The Build America Awards honor the Associated General Contractors members who build the nation’s most impressive projects in utility, highway and transportation, and building categories.
In 1995, San Antonio native John Avila Jr. purchased Byrne and expanded to San Antonio. The City of San Antonio, Centro San Antonio, and the San Antonio Conservation Society also have honored Byrne for its work over the years.
Battle said these days Byrne does about the same volume of work in San Antonio as it does in North Texas. For years, he said, its competitors in San Antonio have tried to say it wasn’t truly a San Antonio company.
“We’re going to be in San Antonio,” Battle said. “We’re laying down roots. We’re going to be a permanent taxpayer here and that is important to us to give back to our city.
“At times, our competition has wanted to say that we are not local. There is no better way to say we are local than to build our headquarters.”