Courtesy / Rhode Partners
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.”
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.