Feature Illustration (above): The proposed Texas Public Radio building, as seen looking north from Commerce Street, would be reached via pedestrian walkways that follow the redeveloped San Pedro Creek. Courtesy: Overland Partners.
by Adolfo Pesquera
San Antonio (Bexar County) — A request for conceptual approval of the designs for a new headquarters for Texas Public Radio were accepted Wednesday by the Historic and Design Review Commission.
The design project will create an annex that will expand the rear section of the historic Alameda Theater, and is being carried out be Overland Partners. The architectural firm was selected last month by the Alameda Theater Conservancy and TPR.
The Alameda, 318 W. Houston, opened in 1949 and has been vacant for several years awaiting a complete restoration.
The Design Review Committee met with Overland architects on July 24, less than two weeks after Overland was formerly announced as the lead architect. At the meeting, committee members concluded that the concept was appropriate in general.
Proposed east elevation of the Alameda Theater/TPR Headquarters building. Courtesy: Overland Partners.
They asked questions about the proposed materials and how the building will interact with San Pedro Creek and a planned pocket park; the San Antonio River Authority is in the process of renovating the entire downtown segment of the creek.
At Wednesday’s session of the HDRC, the project passed through without comment.
Scope of the TPR Addition:
Cross section view showing the existing addition of the Alameda Theater and the proposed expansion. Courtesy: Overland Partners.
Overland proposes to construct an additional two stories to the existing two-story rear addition that was built in 2012. This changes the height of the addition from 30 feet to 65 feet, but it’s still 8 ½ feet below the stage roof of the Alameda.
The building’s facade consists of painted brick, plaster covered masonry and metal elements. To remain consistent, Overland proposes using Portland cement plaster, aluminum curtain walls, anodized aluminum shades, aluminum storefront systems and cut stone veneer.
In order to complement the theater marquee facing Houston Street, TPR will have a marquee element to feature a mast facing the creek (southeast corner), with lighting, signage and vertical aluminum fins reflective of the original marquee.
Also on the east wall, Overland proposes reserving a blank space that will be used for movie projections. City staff commented that, “it is unclear whether any physical interventions to the building are required to accommodate this proposal.”
Southeast view looking north of the Texas Public Radio headquarters. Courtesy: Overland Partners.
The Alameda Theater is most recognizable to the public by its marquee and front entrance facing Houston Street. A notable feature of the TPR configuration is its interaction with the San Pedro Creek reconstruction. Because the creek project will widen immediately south of the building, the TPR entrance will be prominently visible from Commerce Street and be accessible at street and river levels from the south as well as the north.
The exterior will also have banding and fenestration patterns that reflect the banding and fenestration patterns found on the historic structure. Overhead rolling garage doors will be installed at the west elevation.
In Overland’s narrative of the project, the architects note, “The existing square footage is approximately 16,850 square feet. This project intends to bring that square footage up to 47,000 square feet by infilling the area of floor above the locking dock for level 2, turning the roof level to level 3, adding level 4, adding a roof, and partially infilling the fly space for each floor area.”
Overall site plan of the Alameda Theater and TPR Headquarters, in context with the planned redevelopment of San Pedro Creek. Courtesy: Overland Partners.
The intended functions of the addition will remain, however. This limits usable space for TPR operations to majority sections of the existing and new floors.
TPR’s mission is to engage members and users in public discourse through the production and distribution of non-commercial informational, educational, cultural and entertainment content. The mission statement for the new studio and offices is to inspire unity and connectivity.
A centerpiece of the new facilities is the 1,801-square-foot, 215-seat Black Box Theater, a ground floor theater where the public will be invited to participate in live programming. Adjacent to the theater is a 2,215-square-foot pre-function lobby/reception area.
Ground floor (level 1) of the TPR facilities, with Black Box Theater highlighted in yellow and pre-function reception area in blue. Courtesy: Overland Partners.
“It should function as the living room for discussions, topics, and dialogue central to Texas and the local community,” Overland stated.
Estimated cost for the TPR project and the Alameda Theater restoration has been estimated at between $23-$26 million. The public radio nonprofit has committed to raising $5 million. Another $5 million in financing is possible through state and federal historic building renovation tax credits. The rest could come from a revolving loan grant of the Houston Street TIRZ (tax income reinvestment zone).
In addition to Overland, the conservancy and TPR hired Wash. D.C.-based Martinez+Johnson Architecture, a specialist in historic theater restorations.
Northeast view looking south from Houston Street of the front court and facade of the TPR headquarters. Courtesy: Overland Partners.