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Construction on the first mass-timber mid-rise building in the state of Texas is underway in the lower Broadway corridor.
Hixon Properties is partnering with the Cavender family to develop the six-story, 140,000-square-foot mixed-use building set to open in February 2020 as The Soto.
Located at Broadway and 8th Street, The Soto will occupy the former site of a plasma lab and the Cavender Cadillac dealership and showroom, which opened there in 1939 during the area’s heyday and closed in 2014.
John Beauchamp, chief investment officer for Hixon Properties, said the project broke ground in July on a one-half block within the 8.5 acres Hixon and Cavender plan to develop.
“We’re excited about the River North area, and in particular, this portfolio because it’s surrounded by anchors like the River Walk to the west, Pearl Brewery to the north, Broadway to the east, and the Central Business District to the south,” Beauchamp said. “With that, there’s a great story about why this area is ripe for development. We see that office users wanting to recruit and retain a talented workforce are interested in this area.”
About 130,000 square feet of the property will be developed for office space while the remaining 10,000 square feet is planned for ground-level retail. The building also will feature a sub-level parking garage.
The City of San Antonio granted the project fee waivers through the Inner City Reinvestment Infill Policy and passed an ordinance that closed a City-owned alleyway within the property. The land has more than doubled in value from 2015 to 2018, according to tax records.
“The area currently in the River North area has seen a lot of multi-family development,” Beauchamp said. “In terms of development patterns, a second step is often office use because employers see that their workforce has moved into the area and likes the area, and, in turn, employers want to move into the area to meet the needs of their workforce.”
When Hixon first acquired the property, the group began working with architecture firms Overland Partners and Lake|Flato on a vision for the area. In the process, the design team introduced the owners to mass-timber construction, a framing style characterized by the use of large solid wood panels for wall, floor, and roof construction.
Mass-timber construction, an alternative to concrete and steel, has been growing in popularity, with proponents saying it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
“The earth grows our food. We need to move toward an ethic that the earth can grow our homes,” said architect Michael Green in a 2013 TEDTalk.
A two-story, boutique hotel is currently under construction in Austin using mass timber. Beauchamp said the development team also visited several mass-timber projects in Seattle, Portland, and Minneapolis before settling on the design.
“We saw just how great they felt and we learned about how great the tenant response was to these buildings,” he said. “The response was they leased quickly because tenants loved the feel. One of the quotes we heard from a broker is that he’d never seen a prospective tenant hug a concrete column, but he’s seen it happen several times in mass timber buildings.”
The project name, The Soto, was inspired by the mass-timber design. In Castilian Spanish, “soto” means a grove of trees or small forest near a river. “That seemed fitting to us since it’s a mass-timber building a block off the [San Antonio] river,” Beauchamp said.