Weston Urban’s acquisition of historic buildings in downtown San Antonio continued with its purchase last week of the Milam Building, a 1920s-era office building that will be converted to an apartment tower with some office and retail tenants, expanding the growing prospects for downtown residential living.
The Milam purchase comes about one month after Weston Urban announced its purchase of the historic Savoy Building at 116 E. Houston St. at the corner of Soledad, which has been vacant for several years and will be renovated as offices for the growing tech and startup community along East Houston Street between North Main Avenue and South Alamo Street. Weston Urban purchased the historic Rand Building at 110 E. Houston St. from Frost Bank in 2013. The building was renovated in record time, and is now fully leased and the home of Geekdom, the co-working and tech incubator space, and a growing number of tech companies and startups.
Weston Urban is the real estate investment firm started by Rackspace Co-Founder and Chairman Graham Weston, who owns the Weston Centre at 112 E. Pecan St. on the corner of Soledad, adjacent to the Milam. The 32-story Weston Centre, the tallest office tower in the city, opened in 1989 and was the last office tower built in San Antonio.
Weston Urban and its Dallas partner KDC are developing the new Frost Bank Tower on the corner of West Houston Street and North Main Avenue in a complex private-partnership with the City of San Antonio that eventually will allow the City to take control of the existing Frost Bank Tower and, following a renovation, use it as a central office for municipal workers now scattered at multiple sites. Weston Urban will acquire the Municipal Plaza Building on Main Plaza, which it also intends to convert to residential housing. All together, Weston Urban estimates the P3 deal with the City and Frost Bank will lead to development of at least 300 new residential units downtown, many in historic buildings.
The Milam opened in January 1928 as the “nation’s tallest brick and reinforced-concrete structure — taller than comparable concrete-framed buildings in New York and Chicago — and the first high-rise air-conditioned office building in the country.” At the time, The Carrier Engineering Co. boasted that the office tower featured “manufactured weather” previously available only in stores and theaters. The Milam was designated a “national mechanical engineering heritage site” in 1991 by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
The 21-story building at 115. E. Travis St. is named for Col. Ben Milam, a hero of the Texas Revolution who was fatally shot by a Mexican sniper in San Antonio during the 1835 Siege of Bexar.
“Last week we acquired my favorite historic building downtown, the Milam Building,” Randy Smith, Weston Urban CEO, said Thursday. “There is so much cool history behind this building.”
The Milam was owned for 16 years by Dallas-based Casey International, led by Terry Casey, a firm that specializes in acquiring and owning historic properties. The sales price was not disclosed. Although the building continues to serve as an office tower, the “Space Available” page on the Milam’s website suggests that more than one-fourth of the building’s 210,000 sq. ft. is vacant. Lula’s, a Mexican restaurant, occupies part of the street level space.
“Mr. Casey took very good care of his building while he owned it, but as you would expect with any 88-year-old building, it is going to need a lot of love,” Smith said. “We will start immediately with our strategic planning for the building’s renovation.”
Smith said it was too soon to tell if the building could be renovated with tenants remaining in place, or how long it would take before as many as 100 apartments come on to the market for leasing.
*Top image: Weston Urban has acquired the historic Milam Building. Photo by Camille Garcia.