CPS Energy is one step closer to moving in to its new digs on the River Walk after the Historic Design and Review Commission (HDRC) approved the preliminary design concepts for the public energy utility’s new headquarters on Wednesday morning.
The beige, circa 1980s buildings will be upgraded and renovated for better aesthetics and energy efficiency, said Bill Badger, facility and capital construction manager for CPS Energy. A new 1,200-space parking garage will occupy the northeast corner of the property and will likely feature a solar panel array. The former AT&T headquarter buildings total about 430,000 sq. ft. at 530 McCullough Ave.
“We want to re-skin the buildings (because we) want a more modern look,” Badger said. “Something that fits with the city but is also distinctive.”
CPS will seek a LEED Gold certification for the project’s sustainable construction and design elements.
Commission approval comes with two stipulations: one, that CPS Energy work with the San Antonio River Authority on the project’s interaction with the River Walk; and two, that it carry out an archaeological review, which is standard with any project that involves digging around the San Antonio River in case evidence of historic acequias or other deposits arises.
Enhancing the buildings’ relationship with the river is a top priority, Badger said.
If the designs are approved by the CPS Energy board, a construction manager will be hired through a public request for proposal process and CPS Energy employees and contractors could start moving in by late summer or early fall 2019.
The preliminary estimate for the total cost of construction is more than $100 million, said CPS Energy spokesman Paul Flaningan, but that number is expected to fluctuate.
At least part of the cost, Flaningan said, will be offset by the sale of CPS Energy’s 300,000 sq. ft. headquarters on Navarro Street, about one mile north of the new site. That sale is in the “very preliminary stages” and there are several interested parties.
As the new headquarters will be more energy efficient and substantially younger than the 1920s-era location, the utility expects to save money on operating and maintenance costs, he added. “It might (cost) a little more now, but in the long term it saves us a lot.”
There will be no rate increase to pay for the new headquarters.
While the parking garage is expected to be full during normal business hours, Badger said, there are plans to open up spots to the public or lease to nearby businesses on nights and weekends.
“We’re trying to be mindful of other developments in that area,” he said. “Adding parking will be an effective stimulus in that area. … We have to have the garage anyway so let’s make it benefit the city.”
The Tobin Center for Performing Arts is one block away and the buildings sits on the transition point of the more commercial downtown River Walk and the amenities on the Museum Reach.
Other housing and commercial projects are planned for downtown and River North area, including a hotel and condominium tower one block away from CPS Energy’s property.
The surface parking lot directly south of the property is owned by First Baptist Church of San Antonio.
The buildings today have limited windows and strange layouts of stairwells and bathrooms, Badger said. The new design will add more windows and natural light, and redistribute features throughout the building for a less bulky look.
Architects from Corgan, a Dallas-based firm with experience with LEED certified construction, have taken design cues from other buildings on or near the River Walk including the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Pearl Brewery complex, Badger said.