This rendering shows a view of the 20-story tower from Broadway Street and Newell Avenue. Credit: Courtesy / GrayStreet Partners / Gensler / DWG / Big Red Dog / ARUP

A local development firm received a critical go-ahead from the City’s Board of Adjustment on Monday to build a 20-story mixed-use tower near downtown San Antonio on Broadway Street.

Current zoning rules allow a maximum 15-story building, but developer GrayStreet Partners applied for a variance through the 11-member citizen board for five additional stories. After hearing six area business owners and residents speak in favor of the project (no one spoke against it), the board approved of the height exception with a 9-1 vote.

The 260-foot-tall building will include two levels of underground parking, retail space on the ground floor, three more levels of parking above that, four floors of office space (about 130,000 square feet), two amenity floors (gym, pool, etc.), and nine floors of hotel (194 rooms). The 20th “floor” will be for mechanical equipment.

This rendering shows a view of the intersection of Broadway and Newell streets as part of GrayStreet Partners’ proposed 20-story tower. Credit: COURTESY / GRAYSTREET PARTNERS / GENSLER / DWG / BIG RED DOG / ARUP

“Of all the development that’s come before us, this really appears to be very outstanding,” said Mary Rogers, who represents District 7 on the board, “… so go for it.”

Peter French, GrayStreet’s director of development, said the board’s approval on Monday is a key element in solidifying investors and future tenants. French hopes the company can break ground this year and complete the project in early 2021.

Denise Ojeda, who represents District 3 on the board, cast the lone dissenting vote. During the meeting, she said she was concerned about the building’s height being far taller than others in the area and double the height of a new Pearl office tower that broke ground earlier this year.

The City of San Antonio has been encouraging this kind of mixed-use growth in the area just north of downtown, said Daniel Ortiz, a land use attorney representing GrayStreet.

“It’s not an accident that this development is happening here,” Ortiz told the board, citing various city tax abatement and fee waiver programs for urban-core development initiated during the so-called “decade of downtown.” The property, adjacent to the intersection of Interstate 35 and U.S. Highway 281, has been “underutilized or frankly flat-out vacant for some time,” he said.

Most members of the board praised the building’s design and the activation it could bring to the long-vacant lot in tandem with the $42 million “complete street” project slated for Broadway Street.

Alan Neff, who represents District 2 on the board, said he welcomes a design that goes beyond beige limestone.

“San Antonio has had a decades-long history of building mediocre, mid-rise office buildings with a mediocre, mid-rise hotel next to it,” Neff said, noting that this will instead be a building that is “going to be admired by its neighbors.”

The design received conceptual approval from the Historic and Design Review Commission on May 2 and will return for final approval sometime this fall, French said.

The developer has purchased 23 acres for apartments, condos, single-family homes, restaurants, bars, retail, offices, parking, and greenspace across Broadway Street in the Government Hill neighborhood. This tower is “phase one” of GrayStreet’s larger plans for the area, French has said.

Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@rivardreport.com

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