San Antonio: County Commissioners Set the Table for Continental Hotel Block Redevelopment
Feature Illustration: Concept rendering of a 12-story tower, as seen from Dolorosa Street, that would incorporate the historic Continental Hotel and Arana Building on its flanks. Courtesy: Weston Urban.
by Adolfo Pesquera
San Antonio (Bexar County) — The Bexar County Commissioners Court set the table for the $80 million redevelopment of the city block that is home to the Continental Hotel and Arana Building.
During their regular Tuesday morning session, the commissioners convened in their alternate capacity as the Bexar County Public Facility Corporation and approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the developer. A year ago this month, Weston Urban entered a purchase agreement with the City of San Antonio for the historic Continental Hotel building.
That transaction wrapped up their acquisition of the city block that is the 300 block of West Commerce Street to the north and the 600 block of Dolorosa Street to the south. Since then, Weston Urban has been drawing up conceptual designs for a multi-story steel over concrete podium apartment building with structured parking that would incorporate the Continental and Arana buildings.
The new structure would have 250 apartment units. The MOU proposes an affordability component that would reserve half the units (125) for rent restrictions. Twenty-five of the 125 units would be set aside for tenants earning 60% or less of the area family median income, and the other 100 would go to tenants earning 80% or less of AFMI.
Side by side comparison of the new tower (left) and the project site as it appeared in 2020. Graphic by VBX and Weston Urban.
Tuesday’s action allows county staff to begin negotiations with Weston Urban. As the public facility corporation, the county would take title to the land, lease it back to a subsidiary of the developer for 75 years, obtain tax exemption status for the project financing, and would have the typical landlord responsibilities for building maintenance.
The commissioners were told that the lease and regulatory agreement need to be finalized and approved by the Commissioners Court by the end of August. During this same time period, it is expected that the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission will have reviewed and approved the site plan.
Weston Urban would be responsible for obtaining the project financing.
Illustrations of structure massing on the project site (above), and cross-section of the new tower (below), distinguishing between residential floors and parking structure. Courtesy: Weston Urban.
The Continental, with an area of 39,634 SF, was home for decades to the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. Since it was vacated, the parking lot in the center of the block has been used by contractors working for the San Antonio River Authority as a construction staging area for equipment and materials used in the redevelopment of the San Pedro Creek linear park, which borders the east side of the Continental block.
The new construction would be in that former parking lot and the new building would preserve the façades of the Continental (built 1890-96) and the Arana (built in stages from 1920-35, totaling 37,253 SF).
Two smaller historic structures are also affected. The Melchor de la Garza House, constructed circa 1850, and the O’Henry House will be conveyed to the county. The commissioners were told that the De la Garza House will not be relocated, however, Weston Urban–acting through the oddly named subsidiary 601 Painful LP–has considered moving it 40 feet south, to the corner where the O’Henry House stands.
The city’s Historic and Design Review Commission made a recommendation on March 17 that the De La Garza House could move 40 feet, provided its orientation continues to face South Laredo Street. No final decision has been made to relocated either house, however, there is less concern about moving the O’Henry since it has already been relocated twice.
The economic benefits to the county are substantial. Weston Urban would pay the PFC a structuring fee of $250,000; an annual ground rent of $125,000; a capital event fee of 1% of the sale or refinance of the building every time such a transaction occurs; and an annual administrative rent fee of $25,000.
In addition, the redevelopment would be an enhancement to the San Pedro Creek redevelopment. The county invested millions in its reconstruction.
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.