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The most-read stories of 2020

by Ben OlivoDec 29, 2020
Clockwise from top left: the 300 block of West Commerce; Alazan-Apache Courts; Broadway East first phase; 25-story hotel proposed by Dream Hotel Group; District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño; Weston Urban's proposed 32-story apartment tower. Photos by San Antonio Heron except Broadway East (GrayStreet Partners), Dream Hotel Group tower (Dream Hotel Group) and Weston Urban tower (Weston Urban).

As these year-end compilations go, we will publish our "Top Stories of 2020" here in the next 24 to 48 hours. The list you're about to read is your list. Here are the San Antonio Heron's most-read stories of 2020:

1. "West Commerce likely to become San Antonio’s next nightlife destination"

Published Jan. 18, 2020

This story, about plans to resuscitate the 300 block of West Commerce Street was by far the most-read Heron story of 2020. The piece talks about plans by a couple of San Antonio's heavy-hitters from the development world—i.e. James Lifshutz and Weston Urban—to turn the block just west of San Pedro Creek into a mini neighborhood with apartments and shops, and bars and restaurants. We wrote about these plans in January, before the pandemic hit. Despite the spread of the coronavirus, which has crippled downtown's hospitality industry, construction has continued on the first phase of this redevelopment: the Lifshutz-owned Kline building. READ MORE.

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2. "Massive $560M Broadway East development near Pearl set to begin next month"

Published Oct. 2, 2020

Though GrayStreet Partners' ambitious plans to build a Pearl-sized development across Broadway from the actual Pearl had been reported previously, a flood of information came out in a little municipal meeting by the Midtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) board in October. That's when Peter French, GrayStreet's development director, made public for the first time the project's size and scale (20-plus acres), timeframe (10 years), cost ($560 million), among other particulars. Later, Heron contributor Richard Webner broke the story that GrayStreet has partnered with Encore Multifamily of Dallas on the master-planned community's first phase. READ MORE.

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3. "Dream Hotel Group of N.Y. plans 25-story development on River Walk"

Published Jan. 29, 2020

In January, a New York hotel company called Dream Hotel Group announced it was planning to build a 25-story hotel and mixed-use development in downtown San Antonio, presumably along the River Walk, and then we didn't hear anything from Dream Hotel Group again. Which is not unusual. It doesn't mean the project's dead, doesn't mean it isn't. Perhaps we'll get an update in 2021. READ MORE.

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4. "Alazan-Apache Courts named one of America's most endangered historic places"

Published Sept. 24, 2020

In September, the groups fighting to preserve the Alazan-Apache Courts from demolition received a shot in the arm when the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the aging public housing complex on the West Side as one of "America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places." The San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) says it would cost more to renovate the courts, and thus plans to raze and rebuild. Instead of 100% public housing, the new community will be mixed-income—from market-rate to public housing units. SAHA says current residents will have the option to relocate into another SAHA property on the West Side, or be given a voucher. READ MORE.

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5. "'We followed all the rules ... and still fell victim to politics,' Councilman Treviño on Alamo plan's demise"

Published Sept. 27, 2020

The saga to redevelop Alamo Plaza had reached its zenith in 2018, when pushback from multiple groups grew strongest leading up to the City Council approving the plan—which revolved around the relocation of the 1930s-era Alamo Cenotaph—later that year. In 2019 and for much of 2020, things were relatively quiet, save for some fencing going up, the removal of the gazebo and The Lady Bird Johnson fountain. That was until the Texas Historical Commission weighed in and derailed the plans in September by denying the city's permit request to repair and relocate the Cenotaph. In this article, I interviewed District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño, perhaps the plan's biggest proponent, and asked him to play Monday morning quarterback. READ MORE.

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6. "Weston Urban plans 32-story apartment tower in downtown tech district"

Published Nov. 15, 2020

We first caught wind of Weston Urban's plan to build an apartment tower the weekend before the Planning Commission was to consider whether to abandon the city's right-of-way on aerial space above North Main Avenue. The details revealed a development foreign to downtown San Antonio, but which have been common-place for city's with rapidly-growing downtowns: an apartment tower of more than 30 stories with plenty of retail space on the ground level. READ MORE.

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7. "Rosario's owner seeks to demolish site of landmark San Antonio restaurant El Mirador"

Published Nov. 8, 2020

We knew for a year that Rosario's owner Lisa Wong had purchased the former El Mirador building, but we didn't know for sure about her plans. The speculation was that she would move Rosario's down the street into the historic El Mirador spot, but she wasn't doing interviews. Then, in November, she submitted an application to the city to demolish the former El Mirador building and her plans became apparent. READ MORE.

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8. "San Antonio Housing Trust acquires portion of Friedrich complex for $68.7M redevelopment"

Published Sept. 12, 2020

People have been trying to redevelopment the former Friedrich Air Conditioning Co. complex on East Commerce Street for years. When the San Antonio Housing Trust purchased a huge chunk of the property, it signaled that this development—in partnership with Dallas developer Provident Realty Advisors and capital provider American South Real Estate Fund of Atlanta—might actually happen. READ MORE.

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9. "The Floodgate apartment tower closer to reality with razing of East Commerce building"

Published Feb. 6, 2020

Here's another major downtown development that had been years in the making. Then three one-story buildings on East Commerce Street were demolished, making way for the construction of the 17-story Floodgate luxury apartment tower. Construction continues today READ MORE.

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10. "Cattleman Square Lofts project now partnered with S.A. Housing Trust on key west downtown affordable housing"

Published Oct. 22, 2020

For the first time, the San Antonio Housing Trust, which had been criticized for partnering with for-profit developers, partnered solely with a nonprofit builder in the Alamo Community Group on the 140-unit Cattleman Square Lofts in west downtown. READ MORE.

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Heron Editor Ben Olivo can be reached at 210-421-3932 | ben@saheron.com | @rbolivo on Twitter

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