San Antonio: Continental Hotel, Arana Building, 15-Story Tower Design Team Arrive at HDRC
Feature Illustration: Concept design of the historic Continental Hotel (three-story at center-right) and the 15-story residence tower and parking garage, as it would appear from Commerce Street and the San Pedro Creek linear park. Image: BKV Group.
by Adolfo Pesquera
San Antonio (Bexar County) — The design team for the Continental Hotel, Arana Building and new 15-story residence tower goes before the city’s design review commission Wednesday for approval of their concept for redevelopment of the 300 block of West Commerce Street.
The case appears on the agenda as a combined consent item, an indication that the Historic and Design Review Commission is already anticipating approving the concept site plan; the Design Review Committee of the HDRC most recently reviewed the project with the architects on July 13. Committee members agreed that the current design provided appropriate solutions in regards to existing historic resources and goals for the San Pedro Creek linear park, which abuts the property’s east boundary.
Concept site plan for the 15-story infill tower, Continental Hotel and Arana Building by San Pedro Creek.
There are five major elements of the block’s redevelopment that the design team wants considered. Irby Hightower of Alamo Architects is representing the developer, Weston Urban. The issues up for consideration include permission to:
Perform rehabilitative scopes of work to the three-story Continental Hotel, including the restoration of the historic storefront system; install a new canopy system to match the original; restore the wood windows; cleaning of the historic masonry façade; and remove an existing rear addition.
Perform rehabilitative scope of work to the two-story Arana Building, including the repair of the historic storefront system; replace non-original aluminum windows with new windows; clean the masonry; restore the street canopy; and remove an existing rear addition.
Perform rehabilitative scopes of work to the de la Garza House, including the restoration of the structure’s height above grade; restore the walls, windows, doors, porch and roof. The de la Garza House will remain at its existing location.
Construct a 15-story residential structure between the Continental Hotel and the Arana Building. The building will have approximately 255 residential units above a parking structure for 342 vehicles.
Street level view of the lobby-lease office at the corner of Laredo and Dolorosa streets, with the Arana Building and residence tower in the background.
The tower will incorporate both the Continental Hotel and Arana Building–both commercial structures built in the early 20th century–into its pedestrian circulation plan. Weston Urban has sited the new construction to define active spaces, provide pedestrian connections between sites, animate the street scene and define street edges.
The curb cut for vehicular access to the residence tower will be onto Laredo Street, which is the block’s western boundary. An art panel screening concept has been proposed for a portion of the garage that remains exposed on the San Pedro Creek side.
The city is requiring that the project be integrated into the county-financed San Pedro Creek Improvements Project by installing a series of related and connected gardens, plazas and patios. The San Antonio River Authority (SARA) was tasked with the design and redevelopment of San Pedro Creek through downtown, and the development team is required to coordinate with SARA on the landscape site plan, including maintenance boundaries and storm water control measures, prior to their request for a Certificate of Appropriateness.
Among city staff’s numerous recommendations for approval of the concept plan are stipulations that parking decks be fully screened wherever visible from the creek linear park; and that detailed architectural and site lighting plans be submitted for review when returning for final approval.
There are two architect teams on this project. Alamo Architects is responsible for the rehabilitation of the historic buildings–the Continental Hotel at 332 W. Commerce, the Arana Building at 601 Dolorosa, and the de la Garza House–constructed circa 1850 on the existing site. The historic O’Henry House at the corner of Laredo and Dolorosa will be relocated off-site, and a 4,476 square-foot lobby and leasing office will take its place.
The Dallas office of BKV Group is responsible for design of the new residence tower. In addition, Weston Urban retained the services of Post Oak Preservation Solutions to address preservation planning and surveys of the historic structures.
View of the circa 1850 de la Garza House, as seen from Laredo Street.
BKV Group’s Project Summary:
Level 6 includes a club room, amenity deck with pool, and fitness center.
“The site is to be developed into a mixed-use community that provides a new residential building nestled within the existing fabric of two historical buildings. The new construction (258 residential units) will consist of a 10-story partially prefabricated light gauge steel building sitting on a five-story cast in place concrete garage (351 parking spaces) that blends seamlessly with the Continental Hotel and Arana buildings, which will be renovated into commercial, office, and crative lofts.
“This development seeks to help enliven the San Pedro Creek redevelopment which borders on the east side with residential units lining the parking structure and integrate the Zona Cultural District bounded on the other edges with complimentary forms and materials.”
VBX reported in this June 16, 2021 article that Weston Urban is securing financing for the project by entering a Memorandum of Understanding with Bexar County Commissioners Court to have their public facility corporation take title to the land as part of a lease-back deal. While Weston Urban is responsible for obtaining financing, the arrangement makes the property tax exempt, thus allowing Weston Urban to keep about half of the residential units at below market rent rates.
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.