Scott Ball / Rivard Report
The Lone Star Brewery redevelopment project got its first stamp of approval Tuesday from the City’s Zoning Commission, which consented to a zoning change requested by the project leads, San Marcos-based Aqualand Development and Tennessee-based CBL & Associates Properties.
The $300 million effort is set to not only revitalize the old Lone Star Brewery, but also the surrounding Southside neighborhood, all while maintaining the historic site’s integrity and some of its original structures. Many liken the project to the redevelopment of the Pearl Brewery, which now features “324 apartments, 15 restaurants and cafés, 13 retailers, and 18 resident businesses,” according to its website.
The area’s new zoning as an infill development zone opens the realm of possibility for the land to be used for a number of commercial, entertainment, and residential uses.
Developers intend to “keep the former look of (the Lone Star Brewery) and turn it into a true destination for the Southside of San Antonio,” Jennifer Greer, CBL senior director of development, told commissioners Tuesday.
Current project plans include implementing three multi-family housing developments, retail and office spaces, a hotel, a park connecting to the Mission Reach, and a 10-screen Cinemark movie theater. In early October, developers also confirmed Punch Bowl Social, a popular bar/restaurant and vintage arcade, along with Cinemark as one of the site’s first major tenants.
Other plans include demolishing certain structures that the Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) did not recommend saving. City staff said tearing down these buildings, which include a non-historic warehouse space and a garage and loading dock, “would not adversely affect the integrity of the complex,” according to the Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC)’s agenda for Wednesday, when the project will go in front of the group for conceptual approval.
OHP recommended preserving a mural on one of the buildings slated for demolition that once portrayed bits of San Antonio history, according to the HDRC agenda, but since graffiti has covered it up over the years City staff found “the demolition of this structure appropriate.”
Lone Star’s construction is set to begin in the summer of 2017, Greer said, with the first phase of opening to occur in late 2018.
The project, which has been in the works since mid-2015, has received support from the Lone Star, Roosevelt, King William, and Lavaca neighborhood associations and others who see the effort as a much-needed shot in the arm for the area that lacks ample retail options and instead is home to industrial properties – including two recycling plants – unwanted by many neighbors.
Noise from last weekend’s Mala Luna Music Festival, which took place at the brewery, raised the ire of many area residents as it carried on well into the night and disrupted the peace and quiet in surrounding neighborhoods.
King William Neighborhood Association Executive Director Cherise Bell, who was the only citizen to speak for or against the project at the zoning meeting, said that the association supports the project but voiced its concern regarding future noise-related issues in the area with Aqualand and CBL.
“They were aware of the situation and apologized,” she said, adding that she hopes this issue doesn’t arise again considering the existing and planned residential units for the development.
Greer said that while they intend on hosting outdoor, community-wide events at the brewery, they will not be on the same scale as the Mala Luna festival or disobey the City’s noise ordinance.
“It’s not our intent to program the site that way,” she said. “… We want to be great neighbors.”
Zoning commissioners and other area residents also had concerns about potential traffic congestion and a lack of sufficient parking that would lead to parking overflow into nearby residential areas. Greer said that in addition to the three parking lots for each of the residential structures, the site will include approximately 1,600 spots for retail, restaurant, and entertainment.
The brewery, which was established in 1933 as Sabinas Brewing Company and reopened in 1940 as the Lone Star Brewing Company, has been vacant for two decades. Its resurrection as a retail and entertainment destination near the bustling Mission Reach on the River Walk will likely draw residents from the nearby Flats at Big Tex and visitors from other parts of the city and complement the growth the entire Lone Star area is currently seeing.
If the project gets a thumbs up from the HDRC, it will then go to City Council on Dec. 1 for final approval on the zoning adjustment.
There have been similar redevelopment plans for the brewery in the past that never gained final approval. Greer remains confident and said her team and Aqualand have been working closely with the HDRC, as well as neighborhood associations and the City.
“We’re looking forward to presenting (the plans) to (the HDRC) and moving forward with the project,” she added.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said that Cherise Bell was president of the King William Neighborhood Association when she is the executive director.