HDRC Signs Off on Proposed Octagonal Tower on Commerce Street

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A conceptual rendering shows the Floodgates' octagonal shape.

Courtesy / Rhode Partners

A conceptual rendering shows the Floodgates' octagonal shape.

When he envisions what life will be like in the coming years for those who yearn to live downtown, developer Keller Henderson sees residents ordering almost all goods and services on their phones.

He designed his most recent project with that future in mind, and he took the next step toward breaking ground Wednesday when the Historic and Design Review Commission voted to give final approval to his proposal.

The octagonal Floodgate residential tower, to be built at 143 E. Commerce St. along the San Antonio River Walk, would be built between the Witte Building and the Esquire Tavern. It had received conceptual approval from the commission June 6 with eight stipulations, each of which Henderson said his team met.

“We’re very confident that we’ll be approved,” Henderson said before the commission's decision. “We’ve been spending a lot of time and meeting with all the different [commissioners] and addressing each one of their concerns and comments.”

Henderson received permission to demolish several vacant, single-story buildings in the project footprint at 139 and 141 E. Commerce St. A 1982 survey found the storefront facades were not original or of historic significance, according to City staffers.

Henderson said he sees the 17-story, 64-unit building servicing corporate and tech professionals whose employers are located downtown.

Reports last spring estimated rental rates for the luxury apartments would be $4 per square foot, but Henderson said rents will be at market rate and established when the project is complete in 2020.

“It’s definitely going to be at market rate,” he said.

The stipulations that emerged from the June conceptual approval included routine items such as providing more details about landscaping, street furnishing, and site lighting and how mechanical equipment will be screened from view.

Commissioners also asked Henderson to include more safety elements near parking entrances where a state-of-the-art automated parking system called Park Plus will service tenants with automobiles. Tenants will pull their vehicles into elevator stalls where they use touch screens to tell the system when they will need the vehicle next.

“This is going to be a pretty Jetsonian, automated lifestyle,” Henderson said. “It’s all at your fingertips.”

The vehicle is scanned for size, and the tenant must sign out and verify that children, pets, and personal items are out of the car before the car is turned off and locked. The system then takes the vehicle to the appropriate parking level where automated trays lift it from the elevator and move it to its storage space until it is needed again.

“It’s becoming more and more commonplace,” Henderson said. “A lot of developers and cities are taking a look at these systems because of their efficiency and the ability to increase automobile storage without all the different peripherals of a typical structured parking circulation and pedestrian staircases and different codes that need to be met having people walking around inside a parking garage.”

The location of the Floodgate building.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

The planned location for the Floodgate building at 143 E Commerce St..

Other issues the commission wanted addressed required more work such as saving more of an historic stone flood wall at river level and incorporating it into the project.

Henderson said a masonry specialist will dismantle the wall and reinstall it in the same place when the project is completed.

Patti Zaiontz, vice president of the San Antonio Conservation Society, told the HDRC on Wednesday that her group supports efforts to preserve the wall.

"We would urge the applicant to consider a rebuilding scheme that maintains the continuity of the lower westerly portion of the wall," she said. "A continuous lower wall better reflects the historic character of the retaining wall."

Commissioners asked Henderson to undertake a full archaeological investigation of the site.

The commission also previously asked Henderson to make every effort to salvage a fig tree near the river that is inside the construction footprint. However, the City’s arborist has since determined that two trees in the area cannot survive or be replanted elsewhere.

Henderson said the unique octagonal design of the building, conceived by Rhode Partners from Austin, came as a response to trying to maximize views for residents. He said each floor has been situated and optimized to provide the best views based on which floor of the building a residence is on.

He said some picture windows are aligned toward Main Plaza and San Fernando Cathedral, the northwestern view over Houston Street toward Frost Tower, up the river toward St. Mary’s, and east toward Hemisfair Park.

“I’ve been amazed that there hasn’t been something at this level developed in San Antonio yet,” Henderson said. “We feel lucky that we’re the first ones to be able to bring it to market.”

Reporter Edmond Ortiz contributed to this article.

18 thoughts on “HDRC Signs Off on Proposed Octagonal Tower on Commerce Street

  1. Getting excited over a 17-story building is almost as embarrassing for this city as the bizarre obsession with the 22-floor Frost Tower.

    No wonder people think we’re all kind of simple.

    • What’s the point if this comment? Are you so miserable with your own life you need to bring others down to your sad level? Are you the great and mighty decider of what people can or should get excited for? Who crown you king? Oh right, no one. Grow up kid.

      • Aaron, get a life. There is help for people that are so unhappy and depressed with their lives, that they have to bring other people down as well. Please seek help before it is too late.

        On another note, HDRC please approve. It is a wonderful project, where I see myself living there in 2020!!! The San Antonio Riverwalk as your front or back yard, however one sees it!!!

        • My life is great!

          But yeah, I find it a bit embarrassing that Dallas/Austin/Houston are building 50 and 60 floor skyscrapers left and right and yet we are jumping for joy over a building that’s barely 22.

          But, to each his own.

          • Aaron, we are not like any other American and for that matter Texas city that all look alike. San Antonio is a UNIQUE and HISTORICAL city that no other city in America can compete with. San Antonio WILL NEVER look like any other boring American city with box high rises left and right. No, no, no…
            We are San Antonio….
            Home to the beautiful world known Riverwalk, the Alamo and the rest of UNESCO San Antonio missions, the new Hemisfair Park, the new San Pedro Creek Park and the list goes on …
            No San Antonio is probably IMO opinion envied by other American cities…
            So, Aaron again, we do not want 60 story buidings all over our beautiful and historic downtown! YOU JUST DON’T GET IT , DO YOU?
            BIGGER IS NOT BETTER

            SAN ANTONIO: A BEAUTIFUL, UNIQUE AND HISTORICAL AMERICAN CITY

            NOT JUST ANOTHER BORING AMERICAN CITY FULL OF BOX HIGHRISES THAT ALL LOOK ALIKE

            Aaron, again you NEED help! GET IT PLEASE.

    • You talking is the real embarrassment in San Antonio. “…we’re all kind of simple”?? Really? You’re the one who is simple. And tell us who these “people” are.
      Buildings mean progress, growth, a solid economy. I have not witnessed the “ bizarre obsession” you speak of, but why shouldn’t we get VERY excited about the first high rise to be built in downtown in over 25 years?
      Sit back down, and we’ll let you know when to talk.

    • Aaron, I hope you have one more seat at your table of sadness because I have similar feelings about both structure.

        • And guys do NOT get me wrong, I LOVE all the development going on right now in our beautiful city. And we welcome more, but good, well planned development, like the Floodgate project!

  2. Really nice design. I hope it gets built. I hope the HDRC holds them to redoing the stone on the riverwalk, although I don’t think preserving fig trees is necessary as long as Riverwalk landscaping standards are met or surpassed.

  3. Very sorry not to agree. The building design is wonderful and would be a great addition to our moderate skyline, if only it was not right on the Riverwalk.
    The original members of the Riverwalk Commission were very protective of the integrity of the Riverwalk itself and its sunlight corridor. They did not approve designs that would rise right up along the river and create a canyon effect. Well, now we have it. As those original visionaries, who actually conceived the Riverwalk development in 1968 saw it, the Riverwalk needed to be filled with sunlight, which could be achieved with new buildings of a few stories and setbacks for higher, but not too high, buildings. As the originals retired, the standards were lowered by approving higher proposals. Yes, we have achieved the canyon effect. Would that this really exciting Floodgate design could grace a block back from the Riverwalk.

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