San Antonio: 24-Story Downtown Residential Project Likely Off to Rough Start
Feature Illustration (above): A northward perspective of the proposed Villita Tower, showing the west façade abutting the San Antonio River Walk. Courtesy: B&A Architects, FAB Studio.
by Adolfo Pesquera
San Antonio (Bexar County) — B&A Architects Inc. is requesting conceptual approval on the designs for a 24-story residential tower to be located downtown at 112 Villita Street.
The Historic and Design Review Commission is scheduled to consider the project Wednesday, but the developer is expected to encounter opposition.
The project named is Villita Tower and the building includes a mixed-use retail component at street level and a detached parking garage at 126 Villita St., across Jack White Way from the tower. Construction of the five-story garage will require demolition of an existing office building that was determined by the Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) as eligible for historic designation.
“The proposed parking structure necessitates the demolition of a circa 1916 building that has been remodeled over the years. Staff performed an in-depth historic assessment of the building and finds that it is a candidate for historic designation. While the currently visible architectural elements of the existing building date to the 1970’s, the design is associated with architect Norcell Haywood who was the first African American licensed architect to practice in San Antonio,” the OHP said.
The Maverick-Clarke Litho Company built and operating a printing plant in 1916. In 1931, it became a Western Auto Supply Co. store, the second in the chain to open in San Antonio. It went through a major interior renovation in 1999-2000 by Guido Brothers Construction Co.
Mid-1930s photograph showing the original entrance to the Western Auto store at Villita Street and Jack White Way. Courtesy: San Antonio Conservation Society Foundation.
The project site is cater-corner to the iconic Tower Life Building at Villita Street and South St. Mary’s Street, and it extends westward along Villita to the San Antonio River.
B&A Architects is producing the schematic designs in collaboration with Dallas-based Frank A. Butler of FAB Studio. The owner is JMJ Development LLC of Dallas; the founder/CEO, Tim Barton is the owner of record for the project entity Villita Towers LLC.
Vilita Tower as it would appear looked west from Villita Street at S. St. Mary’s and without the proposed parking garage. Courtesy: B&A Architects.
Barton proposes the construction of a 268-foot tower, but the massing remains parallel top to bottom; it does not taper as it rises. City staff note a “lack of tapering is inconsistent with the Downtown Design Guide,” and a greater height should be used to allow for a tapered design.
In total, staff cited seven conditions for recommending denial of the project designs for the tower and four conditions for denying the parking garage.
In addition to the non-conforming massing of the tower, they said a proposed vehicular arrival court that cuts in and out of the sidewalk along Jack White Way was problematic to pedestrian traffic; the tower lacks an architectural focal point; a solar study must be submitted to determine the shadow effects on the River Walk; a conceptual landscaping plan must be submitted; Barton’s architects must eliminate the continuous curb cut proposed on Jack White Way; and they must submit fenestration and façade separating elements to the tower’s south face.
Recommended changes on the parking structure include:
Alternatives to full demolition of the existing building be further evaluated and presented for HDRC consideration.
The garage feature ground-level uses, and incorporate windows or display space along at least 50 percent of the linear street frontage.
That any proposed curb cuts be modified to not exceed 25 feet in width.
A lighting plan be submitted for review to ensure no light pollution results.
The Design Review Committee of the HDRC took a look at the project Sept. 11. Carl Maldonado of FAB Studio and Miguel Saldaña of B&A represented the project. Maldonado told the committee there were no plans to include retail or other commercial uses in the garage, but that it would feature a façade.
Revised garage structure illustrations submitted in late November by FAB Studio appear to spare much of the one-story façade.
Rendering of the proposed parking garage with the façade of the Western Auto building remodeled. Courtesy: B&A Architects.
The tower will have approximately 226 residential units, Maldonado said. It will also have retail and dining space that fronts Villita Street and the River Walk. Fifty percent of the façade will have glazing, with Texas limestone at the street level, and step-back indentations at the second and 18th stories.
The residential floors from from the second to the 22nd story. The 23rd level is for the leasing offices, tenant storage and conference rooms. The 24th floor is the club level and includes a club room, gym and yoga studio, pool deck and infinity pool overlooking the river.
Aerial perspective of Villita Tower, looking southeast. Courtesy: B&A Architects.
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.