The Historic and Design Review Commission voted 5-2 in favor of allowing developers to proceed with plans for a 21-story, 252-room hotel on the River Walk. The project will essentially demolish and gut a majority of the blighted downtown city block on the southeast corner of Soledad and Houston streets.

The proposed AC Hotel by Marriott calls for demolition of the former Solo Serve building save for the River Walk-facing wall, and maintaining the facades of next-door structures collectively known as the Clegg Company Building along the 100 block of Soledad Street. The historic red-brick Book Building on East Houston Street that overlooks the San Antonio River will be “rehabilitated” to become the hotel’s main pedestrian entrance.

The hotel will include 12 levels of hotel rooms, eight levels of above-ground parking, and about 10,000 sq. ft. of street and river-level restaurant and retail space.

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Representatives from Dallas-based Woodbine Development Corporation and San Antonio-based Overland Partners have told the commission that attempts to make the property profitable while maintaining the structures were studied. The structures, they concluded, could not support the necessary density to achieve profitability.

During Woodbine’s first presentation to the commission in April, developers and architects were told that the project would not be approved until a replacement plan was devised for the portion of the Solo Serve building that would be demolished. Developers said the space will be used as parking space until they find a better use for it.

(Read More: River Walk Hotel Developers Go Back to the Drawing Board)

According to the Express-News, HDRC Chairman Michael Guarino was especially concerned about the Clegg building and the Book Building:

“I hope that we understand the conceptual approval means the complete demolition of every building on the site except for the Book Building,” HDRC Chairman Michael Guarino said. “I just want us to think a little bit about that, because this is very, very extensive demolition.”

A floor will be added to the Book Building and existing floors in order to align, structurally, with the back of the Clegg building facing the River Walk.

The San Antonio Conservation Society sent a letter in opposition to the demolition:

“Using a historic building on a prominent street as the pedestrian entrance to a large project in the interior of the block has long been a way to highlight the historic architecture of a community while providing opportunities for major new construction,” stated Conservation Society President Sue Ann Pemberton. “In this case, by preserving only the exterior walls and the interior of the Book Building, the experience of being in a historic building, as part of a transition to the new structure, is lost.”

Click here to download the full letter.

*Featured/top image: The Solo Serve Building off of Soledad Street.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@rivardreport.com

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