Feature Photo (above): Public Theater obtained these two lots at the corner of West Ashby Place and North Flores Street. A proposed new theater will require their demolition, but the architect is working on a design that would incorporate the facade of a former gasoline station. Image: Google Streets.
by Adolfo Pesquera
San Antonio (Bexar County) — The Public Theater of San Antonio, badly in need of a new home, has a request pending before the Zoning Commission to convert two lots adjacent to San Pedro Springs Park for use as an indoor entertainment venue.
The lots are side by side at the corner of West Ashby Place and North Flores Street and a stone’s through from the 4,500-square-foot San Pedro Playhouse; the theater in the park opened in 1930 and has been home to a theater troupe that dates back to 1912. Alpha Building Corp. did a $458,925 renovation on the old playhouse in 2015.
Public Theater plans to build a new three-story theater at the corner location, but there are a number of bridges to cross before that happens. For one, they don’t have the money and just recently began a fundraising campaign. Another hurdle is how to incorporate the facade of the building on the corner–a historically significant former neighborhood gasoline station that will most likely be converted into the box office and foyer of the new building.
The board of directors has been collaborating with 1718 Architecture and its principal, Marcello Martinez on a site plan and building concept. The site plan was submitted to the Zoning Commission, which will here the request Tuesday.
The site plan positions that box office and foyer diagonally, facing directly into the corner of Ashby and Flores. To one side of the foyer, there is a bar and deli with kitchen. There are two theaters at ground floor–a 61-seat show box theater that backs up to Ashby, and behind that is a 150-seat black box theater. Administrative and sales offices would be above ground.
The ground floor concept site plan of the new performing arts theater. Courtesy: 1718 Architecture.
George Green, Public Theater’s CEO and artistic director, and local land use and zoning attorney Patrick Christensen, will represent the theater. The current zoning is neighborhood commercial in the Alta Vista Neighborhood conservation district and the request is for a mixed-use infill development zone with uses permitted for entertainment venue, “indoor with two or less screens and/or stages, and studio–fine or performing arts on 0.411 acres.”
Combining the two lots under an IDZ would permit Public Theater to build a structure to three stories.
Public Theater has estimated that cost of their project at between $4 million to $6 million. The organization also estimates a project timeline of five years.
The Development Services Department is recommending approval because it meets the city’s growth management policy of making physical improvements on an underutilized inner city property that will enhance the character of the neighborhood.
Staff notes, however, that the request “includes the intention to demolish buildings.” Public Theater has not yet submitted demolition applications to the Office of Historic Preservation.