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Port San Antonio Innovation Center Project to Enter Schematic Design Phase

Feature Illustration (above): An early concept rendering of the Innovation Center. Courtesy: Port San Antonio.

Posted: 1-28-2020

by Adolfo Pesquera

San Antonio (Bexar County) — Port San Antonio’s governing board made more progress this month on a development agreement being negotiated with a New York company for the construction of the Innovation Center.

Design work is still at an early stage, however, the facility is anticipated to be between 120,000 and 130,000 square feet.

American Triple I Partners LLC is scheduled to return to the board in May. At that time, the developer will give the board a guaranteed maximum price and more accurate data on the building dimensions and construction schedule.

The board wants to finalize the agreement by June and break ground in the early summer weeks. Their goal is to see it substantially complete within 12 to 14 months after construction begins.

Port San Antonio President/CEO Jim Perschbach told VBX that American Triple I is conducting massing studies and evaluating operational needs. Their development team will begin schematics in the next few weeks.

“Once all the massing studies are done in the next week or so, we’ll have a better idea,” Perschbach said about questions on the building’s scale and cost.

The key terms agreed to at the Jan. 22 board meeting concern the fee structure and payment schedule that Port San Antonio will follow to compensate American Triple I for their work.

American Triple I is covering all financing for the building’s construction and will provide up to $3 million for future expansion, as market demands dictate. The port authority will own, operate and maintain the building.

The board and American Triple I also came to a consensus on the location. The Innovation Center will be placed on a grassy field north of the intersection of General Hudnell Drive and Southwest 36th Street/Clarence Tinker Drive.

Proposed site for the Innovation Center building. Image: Google Maps.

American Triple I initiated the project as an unsolicited proposal in January 2019 based on their awareness of Port San Antonio board discussions about the need for such a facility.

In February 2019, American Triple I entered into a 120-day pre-development agreement to look at its feasibility and to bring back a working concept that conformed to the board’s vision.

The concept was to provide a venue that would have five elements:

  • Co-working/maker spaces: A large space where different employers in IT and other technology sectors and universities could work side-by-side on the development of next generation concepts.
  • Technology arena/conference center: A multi-purpose state-of-the-art arena with capacity for up to 2,000 people that would feature wide screen video monitors and mobile seating. It would be a key attraction for young people with an interest in electronic gaming competitions and other tech competitions such as robotics and drone racing.
  • Technology museum: The San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT), already based at Port San Antonio, needs a new home. It is temporarily housed in the old commissary building; in a previous life, the 1,900-acre Port San Antonio was Kelly AFB.
  • Industry showplace: As an extension of SAMSAT, the showplace would be accessible to the general public and showcase new technologies coming from the co-working area. The showroom would play a role in the community by allowing industries to connect directly with potential buyers around the world.
  • Amenities: The large number of anticipated visitors generated by the many Innovation Center activities will also attract food service providers and retailers.

The Innovation Center was originally intended to go into an existing flex building at the northeast corner of Billy Mitchell Boulevard and Southwest 36th Street, where it would have occupied about 130,000 square feet. But by the conclusion of the feasibility study, it was decided by the board last November that they should go with a new building.

Perschbach said the idea of going into the existing building was abandoned for several reasons. American Triple I had concluded that the conversion would be more involved and expensive than constructing a new building.

In addition, that building already had demand for tenant space and parking. Forcing the Innovation Center to share the facilities would have hampered its intended missions, he said.

American Triple I is working with Sundt Infrastructure Development–an affiliate of Sundt Construction–to provide oversight on the design and construction.

RVK Architects is the designer for the Innovation Center, and Sundt Construction will be its general contractor. VBX will follow this building through Project ID 2020-OC32.

The Innovation Center will be constructed on the grassy field beyond this U.S. Air Force jet monument. Image: Google Streets.

When the project began, the board had two facilities in mind. Since the Innovation Center was initially thought of as a finish-out project within an existing building, that was to have been the first project to start construction.

With the change in direction, plans for Project Tech Building 2 moved to the front. Its predecessor, the 90,000-square-foot Tech Building 1, was completed in 2018. Construction on Tech Building 2 began in October 2019. Designed by Beaty Palmer Architects, Tech Building 2 will be a five-story, 174,000-square-foot building once completed.

The $50 million Tech Building 2 project, funded by Port San Antonio, is projected to reach completion in early 2021. VBX briefly discussed the Tech Building 2 in a May 16, 2019 report.

American Triple I is a New York-based developer and manager of infrastructure assets. However, the Co-Chief Investment Officer and Chairman is former San Antonio mayor Henry Cisneros. Therefore, the company maintains an office in San Antonio.

Sundt Infrastructure Development provides turn-key solutions on a wide range of projects. Services include development management, financing and asset management.


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By |2020-01-28T15:32:35-05:00January 28th, 2020|Construction Preview, Feature Story|

About the Author:

Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.

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