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San Antonio: New Rosario’s for Southtown Gets Concept Approval

Feature Photo: The new Rosario’s (above) from a southwest perspective, and (below) the east elevation. Courtesy: Douglas Architects.

Posted: 12-3-2020

by Adolfo Pesquera

San Antonio (Bexar County) — The owner of one of Southtown’s most popular eateries obtained conceptual approval on an ambitious move that entail relocating a historic home and razing another iconic restaurant, El Mirador.

After El Mirador at 722 S. St. Mary’s Street closed, Lisa Wong, the owner of Rosario’s Mexican Cafe y Cantina, 910 S. Alamo St., acquired the properties–the site is comprised of several lots totaling 0.83 acres–in November 2018.

At the Dec. 2 meeting of the Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC), Wong and her architect, Andrew Douglas of Douglas Architects Inc. requested approval of a concept design that includes permission to:

  • Demolish the majority of the El Mirador Restaurant structure.
  • Construct a new two-story commercial structure.
  • Relocation the historic F.L. Dixon House at 519 S. Presa St. to the southeast corner of the project site. The Dixon House was designed in the Queen Anne style.
  • Perform site modifications that will include a new surface parking lot facing Presa, right-of-way improvements, and landscaping.
The Dixon House will move to the southeast corner of the property (upper right). Most of El Mirador (pink) will be razed.

The El Mirador structure began as a caliche wall homestead, circa 1860, and was added onto in several directions over the decades. The caliche structure is one of the oldest of its kind in San Antonio.

A committee of the HDRC conducted a site visit in September with the architect and advised that the original caliche wall structure be preserved and incorporated into the new design.

Douglas agreed to retain a majority of the remaining portion of the original circa 1860s caliche stone block structure, which will be stabilized, restored, and preserved in the interior space. An additional remaining stone wall will be dismantled and the stone reutilized elsewhere in the site redevelopment proposal.

As it relates to the caliche structure, the scope of work includes the stabilization and restoration of the space, including building a sufficient foundation and restoring the stone. The proposal also includes adding a fire-rated wall around the structure to comply with existing building codes.

Wong hired general contractor Fabian’s Enterprises LLC to provide estimates comparing the cost to remodel the existing restaurant versus going with new construction. This was necessary to establish that a restoration of El Mirador was not financially feasible.

The new Rosario’s is to have a gross square foot area of 22,148 SF, and a total cost of about $4,153,961. The hard cost estimate for construction was put at just over $3 million.

The new structure’s front setback will largely be on the zero lot line and will immediately engage with the sidewalk. Wong proposes a predominantly one-story structure with a portion of the structure reaching two stories towards the southern edge of the lot.

The proposal also includes an elevator tower towards the center of the lot, which, based on the submitted renderings, will be the tallest element of the building. The specific height is not indicated and city staff was opposed to the height as presented. Douglas agreed to work on modifications to make the elevator tower less noticeable.

The flat roof form of the structure allows to the creation of a deck on a portion of the roof; hence, the need for the elevator.

The first floor will feature a brick veneer façade with small parapet. The second floor roof is also proposed to be flat but constructed of a metal slatted structure, wood panels, glass, and fabric to create an open-air terrace.

Wong wants a storefront fenestration system with trios of floor-to-ceiling glass windows and transoms separated by a modern interpretation of brick veneer pilasters. The northern edge of the front façade features a D’Hanis brick screen, and decorative metal screens are proposed along the storefront system near the center of the front façade.

The storefront design wraps around to the interior courtyard facing the King William Garden House structure.

The South Presa-facing elevation doesn’t feature window or door elements beyond a new loading dock door, and Wong plans to commission a local artist to incorporate a large art graphic across that wall.

Site modifications include pouring a new surface parking lot in the existing location of the Dixon House; new right-of-way improvements fronting S. St Mary’s, including new hardscaping, outdoor dining space, and landscaping; the creation of an interior courtyard, including new hardscaping and landscaping; and two new concrete curb cuts fronting S. Presa for access to the surface parking lot.

VBX Project ID 2020-8414

The south elevation of the new Rosario’s, as seen from Presa Street.