San Antonio: Former Zachry Realty Exec Takes on West Side’s Basila Frocks Renovation
Feature Illustration: Conceptual rendering of the Basila Flocks Building, post renovation. Courtesy: Prosper West.
by Adolfo Pesquera
San Antonio (Bexar County) — A former vice president with Zachry Real Estate has partnered with nonprofit organization to restore an iconic West Side landmark, the Basila Frocks Building.
During a Wednesday meeting of the Westside Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Board of Directors, a resolution was passed to support a Chapter 380 economic development loan agreement. The loan amount of $945,000 will go toward the purchase and rehabilitation of the Basila Frocks, 502 N. Zarzamora Street.
The total estimated project cost, according to the development team, is about $3.7 million. The building is not within the boundaries of the Westside TIRZ, however, it is very near the boundary and is eligible for TIRZ funding.
Basila Frocks was constructed in 1929 by an immigrant Syrian family that used the building to manufacture ready-to-wear dresses. In subsequent years, under other ownership, the building has been home to restaurants, clinics, offices, a grocery store. The upper floor was for many years a ballroom that hosted wedding receptions, quinceañeras and other social events. It was even a wrestling gym.
It has been vacant since 2005, however, and has been deteriorating. The Basila Frocks is considered a special place among West Side residents and numerous efforts have been made to revive it.
Prosper West (formerly the Westside Development Corporation) most recently led this effort. Its director, Ramiro Gonzales, issued a Request for Proposals to recruit a developer. That search led to a handshake with DreamOn Group, a company that was former by co-partners Julissa Carielo and Rene M. Garcia.
Introducing himself to the board, Garcia said he worked with Zachry companies for 36 years and was very involved with them in the redevelopment of Sunset Station and the St. Paul Square historic district.
Garcia retired from Zachry in 2019 to form DreamOn Group. The group is comprised of three companies that combined provide an A-to-Z development process:
DreamOn Development Company LLC provides project feasibility analysis, consultant team selection, financing, construction management and marketing.
Tejas Premier Building Contractor Inc. provides pre-construction, architect/engineer recommendations, cost estimating, bidding, general contracting and design-build services.
DreamOn Property Management Company LLC
The Basila Flocks is a 20,000 square-foot concrete and brick building that, despite the years of neglect, is structurally sound. Prosper West and DreamOn Group anticipate that there will be space enough to lease business offices to from 15 to 20 small businesses.
The conceptual floor plans would include 1,000 square feet for community meeting space. The Basila Flocks would also become the new headquarters for Prosper West, Gonzales said.
The lot includes a large area for surface parking. Garcia said their plans include reserving some of that outdoor space as a venue from community events.
The Basila Flocks Building and parking lot. Image: Google Earth/VBX graphic.
Their project schedule estimates the team will be able to close on all its financing by mid August. Owing to its age, the Basila Flocks is considered a historic building, however, it does not yet have that official designation. However, Gonzales said that part of their financing strategy is to get historic building tax credits, which would require compliance with historic building design constraints and certification through the Texas Historical Commission.
The design phase will occur throughout the summer and hopefully conclude by mid October.
Construction mobilization and partial demolition could then proceed in late October and the renovation work could be underway by Nov. 1. The grand opening would then take place by August or September 2022.
There are numerous site challenges, but the one that most concerned the board of directors is the zero lot line. The Basila Frocks walls were constructed to abut the sidewalks along Martin and Zarzamora streets. Both streets a busy commercial corridors and there is a history of cars crashing into the building, particularly at the corner.
Garcia said this is an issue they’re aware of and the renovation will have to include construction of an alcove at any entrance to ensure the safety of tenants and guests. There will also be talks with the city’s Transportation Department, the hope being funds will be made available to widen the intersection.
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.