Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Booming redevelopment along the Broadway corridor north of downtown San Antonio is transforming an area that until recently was largely void of commercial activity into a business hub.
With several large projects already underway in the area near the Pearl, Jefferson Bank is the latest major business to make plans to move into the corridor. Four bank executives purchased nearly an entire block, 1.7 acres, two weeks ago at Broadway and East Grayson streets with the intention of relocating the bank’s headquarters there within four to five years.
The redevelopment of an area that had for decades been populated only by light commercial and industrial businesses has neighborhood associations in Government Hill, Tobin Hill, and Westfort concerned about rising home valuations as well as traffic and parking issues.
Credit Human, formerly the San Antonio Credit Union, is building a $112.5 million headquarters with the help of $8.8 million in City and County tax incentives just across Broadway from Jefferson Bank’s proposed new headquarters. GrayStreet Partners plans to develop a 20-story office tower and hotel at Broadway and Newell Avenue, and two other office buildings are under construction between East Grayson Street and Pearl Parkway. Alamo Colleges also is building new headquarters in the area, at Alamo and Josephine streets.
Jefferson Bank President Paul McSween, one of the four executives involved in the purchase, said the location is ideal for its growing business. The company employs 363 people and expects to add 150-200 employees over the next 10 years, McSween said.
“We feel like this is a very strategic location that can accommodate our needs for the next probably 30 to 50 years,” he said. “We’re going to design a building for our headquarters and a parking garage, and hope to have something up in the next five years.”
There are no specific plans for the project yet, McSween said, but the hope is to have them in place so that construction can begin within two years. He estimated that the building would have 190,000-200,000 square feet of office space, with the bank initially utilizing 60 percent of that and renting the rest. Jefferson Bank officials have partnered with local real estate firm Milam Real Estate Capital to design the new headquarters.
McSween said the bank’s growth – from $670 million in assets to $1.86 billion in the past 10 years – is only one reason behind the project. The bank’s divisions and a mortgage unit are spread over four locations around San Antonio, and bringing them together under one roof is attractive, he said, adding that there are no plans to pursue tax incentives from the City.
“We’re just spread all over the place,” he said. “Our intent is to pick up some efficiencies and bring everybody together. We love the opportunity it brings in recruiting top talent as we’re facing this need for growth in our number of employees, but we also see the advantage of consolidating all of our bank divisions and really creating an environment of collaborative synergy.”
The Still Golden Social House bar, which opened in March after previously occupying a spot on Pearl Parkway as Stay Golden Social House, is the only building on the block that the Jefferson Bank group does not own now. McSween declined to comment about whether his group is in talks to purchase the building to complete Jefferson’s parcel.
Nearby residents already are dealing with problems created by all the redevelopment, said Rose Hill, president of Government Hill Alliance neighborhood association. They fear the potential for home valuations to spike, triggering unaffordable tax bills, she said.
“I think right now the main thing in a lot of these neighborhoods, and I think I can speak for a lot of the neighborhoods, is the taxes and high-rising appraisal values,” Hill said.
Some of the redevelopment projects are made possible through the use of City-designated infill development zones, which relaxes things like parking requirements and traffic analysis. Residents fear the transformation could lead to traffic and parking problems, not only for themselves but for workers coming to jobs in the new buildings.
“The City continues to say the neighborhoods are the backbone of our city, and in many cases I’ve seen that to be true,” said Joe Bravo, president of the Westfort Alliance neighborhood association. “I would hope that we would continue to be at the table [in zoning and redevelopment discussions], because there are unintended consequences sometimes when you put that kind of density.
“It’s not about [broader] future plans, because we have been at the table for that. We’ve been informed. We’ve participated. It’s really the current zoning, the current activity between now and our aspirational goals for this city. That is a larger concern for neighborhoods in that area right now.”