The Canopy by Hilton and the Witte building, on the 100 block of East Commerce Street, are due to open next month.
The Canopy by Hilton (left) and the Witte building, on the 100 block of East Commerce Street, are due to open next month. Photos by Ben Olivo | Heron

A stretch of East Commerce Street, which for years has been hidden behind construction fences, is set to come back to life next month with the opening of a 22-story hotel and four restaurants and bars overlooking the River Walk.

The Canopy by Hilton, a 195-room boutique hotel at the corner of Commerce and North St. Mary's streets, is expected to open in mid- to late-April, said its developer, Chris Hill, who owns the Esquire Tavern next door. The hotel’s management company has already moved in office furniture and is preparing to begin employee training, he said.

When plans for the hotel were revealed in 2016, Hill said he expected to complete it in 2018, but construction has been delayed by a number of factors including the discovery of unexpected utility lines underground and the difficulty of preserving historic structures on the site, he said.


"We are barreling toward the finish line," he said. "It's been a difficult project for a number of reasons."

On the Canopy's river level, there will be a restaurant and bar named Domingo serving South Texas-inspired cuisine using local ingredients, he said. The building will also feature a bar named Otro on a third-floor terrace overlooking the River Walk, serving cocktails and light refreshments. The bar will feature a backdrop of flowing water, said Patrick Shearer, president of Hill's development company, Crockett Urban Ventures.

The hotel, restaurant and bar will be managed by White Lodging, a company based in Indiana, which manages numerous major hotels in Austin, including the downtown JW Marriott. In San Antonio, it manages the Marriott Plaza on South Alamo Street across from Hemisfair.

The hotel will remain under the ownership of an entity affiliated with Crockett Urban Ventures, paying a fee to Hilton to be a part of the brand, Hill said.

At the other end of the block, Hill has spent the last several years restoring the historic, three-story Witte building, which has long sat vacant despite its prominent position overlooking a corner of the River Walk.

The Canopy by Hilton is located at East Commerce and North St. Mary's streets is due for completion in April. Photo by Ben Olivo | Heron

On the building's river level, there will be a tiki bar named Hugman's Oasis, named after River Walk architect Robert H.H. Hugman. The street level will feature a Vietnamese restaurant named House of Má, operated by Eric Treviño and Louis Singh, the team that opened Singhs Vietnamese the St. Mary's Strip.

The restaurants are also set to open next month, Shearer said.

"Both of them rely heavily on outdoor seating, so I think they'll be good examples of offering people a safe, fun dining experience as we get through Covid," he said.

The second floor of the Witte will offer a private dining room overlooking the River Walk, available for small events, Shearer said. The third floor is being renovated into four micro-apartments, with about 450 square feet each, probably renting for around $1,300 a month, he said. Three of the apartments will have balconies and river views. The apartments will likely go on the market next month, after the building's elevator is completed.

Even after the opening of the Canopy and the Witte building, Commerce Street will not yet be free of construction. On the property in between the Esquire Tavern and the Witte, developer Keller Henderson is in the early stages of constructing a 17-story apartment building named Floodgate. In February 2020, his construction team began demolishing three commercial buildings which had been on the site.

The stretch of Commerce is in a prominent part of downtown. Along with its proximity to the River Walk, it is a couple blocks west of Hemisfair, the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center and the Shops at Rivercenter mall, and two blocks east of City Hall, Main Plaza, and the cluster of properties that Weston Urban is developing into high-class residential and office space.

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Shearer pointed out that after the opening of the Canopy and the Witte building, there will be five retail businesses open on that stretch of Commerce.

"I think it will add a lot of energy to the street," he said. "When Floodgate gets done, we look forward to having them activate their portion as well."

The opening of the Canopy follows a devastating year for the hospitality industry in which the Covid-19 pandemic sapped demand for tourism and caused most conventions to be cancelled. Nonetheless, Shearer said he is hopeful for the future of the downtown hotel market.

"We have seen leisure business come back to downtown in a strong way," he said. "There are lots of people who are looking for drive-able destinations where they can come for the weekend and do something different, and I think the outdoor areas of the River Walk and the family-friendly nature of downtown San Antonio work well for that."

Even as the vaccine is rolled out, the schedule of events at the Convention Center remains slim. The Canopy's target segment has always been leisure and business travelers, not convention-goers, Shearer said.

"I think it's going to take a while for the group business and conventions to come back, but we've already seen a strong rebound in the leisure travel segment," he said.

» The Floodgate apartment tower closer to reality with razing of East Commerce buildings (Feb. 6, 2020)
» Tiki bar, Vietnamese restaurant set to open early 2021 inside Witte building (Dec. 16, 2020)
» Gas-powered tiki torches approved for upcoming River Walk bar (Feb. 23, 2019)
» Canopy by Hilton expected to reach max height in October (Sept. 22, 2019)
» Renderings show 17-level, octagonal Floodgate apartments towering over River Walk (Dec. 2, 2018)
» Tiki bar, Asian restaurant, apartments part of Witte building restoration (Nov. 18, 2018)

Richard Webner is a freelance journalist covering Austin and San Antonio, and a former San Antonio Express-News business reporter. Follow him at @RWebner on Twitter

The Leeds building at 345 W. Commerce St. has been purchased by former Los Angeles developer Cory Stehr.
The Leeds building is located at 345 W. Commerce St. Photo by Ben Olivo | Heron

A developer who recently moved to San Antonio from Los Angeles has made his first downtown purchase: a historic two-story building that has long sat vacant a few doors down from the future path of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park.

After buying the Leeds building, 345 W. Commerce St., last month with a partner, Cory Stehr plans to spend $500,000 sprucing up its façade and renovating its interior, he said. The building will offer about 5,000 square feet of retail space on its ground floor, which he hopes to fill with a local restaurant. On the second floor there will be 4,800 square feet of flexible office space with month-to-month leases geared toward freelancers.

Stehr and his partner paid $900,000 for the building, its listing price, he said. The former owner was a local partnership that included members of the Gembler family. The city has declared the building a historic landmark.

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After spending nearly a decade working in the real estate industry in southern California, Stehr moved his family to San Antonio about six months ago. He likes the city's Tex-Mex culture, and wants to take part in the "resurrection" of its downtown.

One of the things he finds appealing about San Antonio is that it is unique among major cities in having a downtown where development costs are low enough that investors can afford to lease space to small businesses, he said.

"To me, San Antonio's downtown is bar none the most underrated, underutilized downtown," he said. "I can still make money putting in a tenant that doesn't have as good of credit, but I can grow with them, I can help their business grow. I can start with them when no one's willing to take them, as long as they have a good product, and I can help them turn their business into something else."

Stehr made his first purchase in the local market in July, when he bought a warehouse at 414 Vera Cruz, just west of downtown, which was formerly a factory for the Finck Cigar Company. The warehouse is now home to Element Kombucha and Tio Pelon's Salsita, a company which makes gourmet salsa. He also invests in real estate in Austin.

The Leeds building, which was constructed in 1929, is in the middle of the whirlwind of development occurring in west downtown. Next door, James Lifshutz is renovating the Kline’s building into a restaurant space. On the other side of the block, facing Houston Street, Texas Public Radio has moved into its new headquarters inside the Alameda Theater, which is being renovated. Across the street from the Leeds, Weston Urban plans to rehabilitate the former Continental Hotel into a mixed-use development. The future site of UTSA's new downtown campus is under construction two blocks to the south.

Map of the 300 block of West Commerce
1) The Leeds building, 345 W. Commerce St., was purchased in February by Cory Stehr and a partner. 2) The Kline's building, 337 W. Commerce St., owned by local developer James Lifshutz. 3) Commercial building at 331 W. Commerce St. owned by a New Mexico-based entity. 4) Two-story commercial building owned by an entity based in Aurora, Colorado. 5) The former Continental Hotel, 322 W. Commerce St., to be redeveloped by Weston Urban. 6) Texas Public Radio headquarters. 7) San Pedro Creek Culture Park current phase. Map by Heron | Google

And, of course, the rehabilitation of San Pedro Creek into a walking park similar to the River Walk will tie it all together. The creek runs about 80 yards east of the building, beside the Penner's department store.

"With that character, and with San Pedro Creek, it begs for someone to say, 'I'll put a cool concept there’," Stehr said of his building. "We might have to fill it with some tenants we're not thrilled to take in the short-term, just to carry it. But when the street builds up, I would look forward to seeing a great restaurant. I can see people taking their bikes right off of San Pedro Creek and saying 'Meet me for happy hour, meet me for dinner, meet me for lunch.' People walking around, people bustling."

The Leeds has sat vacant for years, its second-floor windows boarded-up. Stehr wants to replace its awning and remove some of the stucco on its exterior.

He plans to make further investments downtown. On Thursday morning, he said he was about to leave for an appointment to tour a building on the River Walk.

He rhapsodized about San Antonio's unique cultural character and the artistry on view in its historic architecture—and lamented that so many downtown buildings have become blighted.

"Downtown San Antonio has all this character, but it's gone," he said. "I see the potential here, being from L.A.—not to tout myself, and say I know better than the Texans. I just think that when it's your own, you get complacent. When you see the same thing, you don't appreciate its beauty. Someone who lives in Bali and lives on the beach might say, 'Eh, it's a body of blue water, what do you mean, man? It's not that special.' Someone who comes from a polluted beach might say, 'It's pretty special.'"

» UTSA has started building its data science school, national security center on Dolorosa (Jan. 31, 2021)
» Continental Hotel sold to Weston Urban for mixed-use project (June 9, 2020)
» West Commerce likely to become San Antonio’s next nightlife destination (Jan. 18, 2020)

Richard Webner is a freelance journalist covering Austin and San Antonio, and a former San Antonio Express-News business reporter. Follow him at @RWebner on Twitter

The former Continental Hotel, 322 W. Commerce St., will be sold to a developer for the production of mixed-use, mixed-income housing
Weston Urban will purchase the former Continental Hotel, 322 W. Commerce St., from the city. Photo by Ben Olivo | Heron

By Ben Olivo & Benjamin Gonzalez | San Antonio Heron

The City Council voted last Thursday to sell the former Continental Hotel property at 322 W. Commerce St. to Weston Urban, the San Antonio-based developer whose portfolio includes the Frost Tower and more than a dozen properties in west downtown. Construction on an apartment mid-rise on the property could potentially be for "future students, faculty, and staff" at University of Texas at San Antonio's expansion on Dolorosa across the street south.

[ Scroll to the bottom for a map showing Weston Urban's properties. ]

The purchase price for the four-story Continental Hotel and the adjacent parking lot, located a half-block west of City Hall, is $4.7 million.

Two years ago, Weston Urban purchased the abutting two-story Arana building and the O. Henry House Museum, which face the 600 block of Dolorosa; all structures including the Continental are bound by West Commerce, San Pedro Creek, Dolorosa and South Laredo. There are no plans yet for the O. Henry House, where American writer William Sydney Porter lived in 1885, said Weston Urban President Randy Smith.

Weston Urban intends to preserve and refurbish the Continental Hotel and Arana buildings, rather than eviscerate them leaving only the facade—a common practice in San Antonio. On the lot between the buildings, a new structure containing 274 apartments rising 8-12 stories will be built. At least half of the apartments will be reserved for people making 80% of area median income, which is $72,000 for a family of four according to preliminary 2020 federal estimates.

"I think it would scale real well with the (Bexar County) buildings, with the Vistana," Smith said last week. "I do not view that as a high-rise site."

Weston Urban plans to build mixed-use apartments with retail at the former site of the Continental Hotel, 322 W. Commerce St.

Last year, the city started the process of finding a buyer for the Continental Hotel building, which has been owned by the city for many years. The late-19th century building last housed the Metropolitan Health District offices until 2016. The campus expansion is expected to add more than 3,000 faculty, staff, and students to the area by 2028.

The development also includes a parking garage with 432 spaces—68 of which will be available to the public during the day.

Construction is expected to begin November 2021, and be finished two years later.

Aside from UTSA's growth just south, there are plans north of the site to renovate old commercial buildings into a collective retail and restaurant hotspot—the San Pedro Creek project flowing alongside all of it—lead by James Lifshutz' redevelopment of the Kline's building.

Proceeds from the Continental Hotel sale will be deposited into the City Tower fund, which supports the city's renovation of the old Frost Tower at 100 W. Houston St., Kelly Saunders, spokesperson for the Center City Development and Operations (CCDO), said via email.

For the Continental Hotel and Arana project, the city is recommending Weston Urban receive $161,000 in city fee waivers, $1 million SAWS impact fee waiver, and $500,000 in an infrastructure grant from the Houston Street and Westside Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones. Under the Center City Housing Incentive Policy, the project is also eligible for a city property tax rebate for 15 years, the estimated value of which was not provided by the city.

However, Smith said Weston Urban may partner with a public facility corporation, government-created nonprofits, which would exempt the project from paying any property taxes.

The city also anticipates to receive $18,500 a year in sales taxes from the retail portion of the project.

Continental Hotel/Arana Building project

» Developer: Weston Urban (San Antonio)
» Address: 322 W. Commerce St.
» Property owner: Weston Urban buying from City of San Antonio
» Type: Apartments w/retail
» Height: 8-12 stories
» Units: 274 units units
» Rental type: Half market-rate, half priced at 80% area median income or lower.
» Land size: 1.86 acres total
» Cost: Unknown
» Financing: Unknown
» Public subsidies: City recommended $161,000 in city fee waivers; $1 million SAWS impact fee waiver; and $500,000 in an infrastructure grant from the Houston Street and Westside Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones. Also, 15-year city property tax rebate via the Center City Housing Incentive Policy. Potential for full tax exemption via a public facility corporation partnership.
» Return on investment: Unknown
» Construction start date: November 2021
» End date: November 2023
» Architects: Unknown


June 4, 2020

The City Council unanimously votes to approve the sale of the Continental Hotel to Weston Urban.


The City of San Antonio issues a request for proposals for a developer to build apartments at the Continental Hotel site. Weston Urban is the only respondent, and was awarded the sale.
» Read more: "Former Continental Hotel to become mixed-income apartments"


The City of San Antonio moves Metropolitan Health District from the old Continental Hotel building.

Area median income

Here are the latest area median income (AMI) levels for the greater San Antonio area (Bandera, Bexar, Comal, Guadalupe and Wilson counties), according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Want to know more about how AMI works? Click here.
[table id=4 /]

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Correction: A previous version of this article implied the apartments for the upcoming project would be built for UTSA faculty and staff. Anyone can eventually live there. Also, the article erroneously stated a condition of the sale.

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

Crews demolish three buildings on the 100 block of East Commerce Street for the construction of the 17-story Floodgate luxury apartment tower. Photo by Ben Olivo | Heron
Three one-story buildings on the 100 block of East Commerce Street were demolished this week. Photo by Ben Olivo | Heron

On Tuesday, crews began demolishing three single-story commercial buildings on the 100 block of East Commerce Street for the 17-story Floodgate, a luxury apartment project by local developer Keller Henderson that will also face the River Walk.

The $43 million, octagonal tower will stand between the Witte building and Esquire Tavern, which are both owned by local developer Chris Hill. Hill and Merritt Development Group of Austin are also building the 22-story Canopy by Hilton on the end of the block at North St. Mary's Street, across from the Aztec Theatre.

On Dec. 5, 2018, the Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) granted the Floodgate a certificate of appropriateness, which approved the design as well as the demolition of the row of commercial structures, which were local landmarks, that stood in its place. In recent years, notable tenants included restaurants Bella on the River and Jerry's Chicago Style Hotdogs. The HDRC ordered the historic stone flood wall along the River Walk, the parts of the buildings that face the River Walk, be incorporated into the Floodgate's design.

It's unclear whether Henderson will deconstruct the wall stone by stone and reconstruct it later, which is the method Hill and Merritt Development are using for the former Mortgage Investment Corp./Sullivan Bank building and Alamo Fish Market facades at the Canopy site.

Henderson did not return an interview request for this update.

Scroll down for more info.

The Floodgate apartment tower by developer Keller Henderson is proposed for 143 E. Commerce St.
The Floodgate design was approved by the HDRC on Dec. 5, 2018. Courtesy Rhode: Partners

The Floodgate info

» Address: 143 E. Commerce St. (also faces River Walk)
» Developer: Keller Henderson (San Antonio)
» Property owner: Keller Henderson (San Antonio)
» Type: Housing with retail
» Height: 17 stories
» Units/square feet: 53 units; 15,000 s.f. restaurant (river and street)
» Rental type: Luxury
» Land size: 0.17 acres
» Cost: $43 million
» Investors: Undisclosed
» Incentives: $3.9 million from San Antonio's Center City Housing Incentive Policy (view CCHIP agreement)—an estimated $3.1 million in city property tax rebates, $300,000 SAWS fee waivers, $111,288 in city fee waivers, and a $375,000 mixed-use loan.
» Rate of return on investment: Undisclosed
» Construction start date: Unknown
» End date: Unknown
» Architects: Rhode: Partners (Austin)

The Floodgate locator map, 143 E. Commerce St.


Dec. 5, 2018
Design for The Floodgate, a 17-story luxury apartment tower on East Commerce Street, received a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic and Design Review Commission. Its contemporary design and octagonal shape on one of downtown's most prominent blocks makes the project stand out. The project, by Keller Henderson of San Antonio, will include 53 units and restaurant space on the River Walk and on Commerce. Read more.

June 6, 2018
The Floodgate design wins conceptual approval at the Historic and Design Review Commission meeting. The design shoots from 10 stories, the original concept, to 17 stories. Read more.

Word of the Floodgate, named for its location near the River Walk's north floodgate, first appears in an article in the San Antonio Express-News. In the piece, Henderson says rents would average $4 per square foot, which would make it the most expensive apartment property in San Antonio. Read more.

More images | @sanantonioheron on Twitter | Facebook

Klines Building
This rendering shows the Kline's building (lit up) on West Commerce Street, behind Texas Public Radio's headquarters and near San Pedro Creek. Courtesy Overland Partners

At the moment, the 300 block of West Commerce Street is practically comatose.

Every building but one, the venerable Penner's men's clothing store, is vacant. Lifeless neon signs advertising "Texas State Optical" and "Golden 50's Greatest Cut," relics of Old San Antonio, jut from a historic two-story commercial building on the west bank of the massive San Pedro Creek restoration project, currently a muddy scene of heavy machinery and men in hardhats 18 feet below grade. The block gets a good amount of foot traffic, a lot of transients, as the main connector of inner downtown and the Market Square area.

Give it two years.

By then, if everything goes according to plan, this section of the San Pedro Creek project will be finished and pedestrians will stroll the tree- and mural-lined walkway, which will seamlessly connect the creek with West Commerce Street and the plaza in front of the new Texas Public Radio (TPR) building—all of it opposite a 250-foot-wide waterfall on the creek's east bank. Part of the $75 million phase, which is expected to be completed by April or May of 2021, included the demolition of the old Dollar General building, which now creates room for the gardens area at creek level. The San Antonio River Authority, the project's manager, purchased the building, which was a local landmark, according to city records, from Penner Brother's LLC in 2016 for an undisclosed price.

A rendering of segment 1.2 of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park is shown from the perspective of West Commerce Street.
A rendering of the latest phase of San Pedro Creek Culture Park shows the view from West Commerce Street looking north. Courtesy San Antonio River Authority

On Commerce Street, decoratively-paved sidewalks, newly-planted trees, dramatic lighting, and artistic benches and bus shelters will be installed, one of downtown's largest bond projects. The building carcasses of today will be revived with restaurants and bars, creating the downtown area's hippest culinary and nightlife destination.

In this section of downtown, multiple parties, both public and private, are converging to create what should become one of downtown's most unique pockets. Many decades ago, the area was considered San Antonio's West Side, when it was dense with homes and commercial buildings, before Urban Renewal and the construction of Interstate 35 wiped it nearly clean save for a few landmarks, such as San Francesco Di Paola Church, pushing the West Side's edge to Alazan Creek. On the vacant lots and in the vacant buildings are plans to build a new neighborhood, and West Commerce Street promises to be at the center of it all.

The Kline's building

The possibilities were brought to light when renovation plans for the Kline's building, 337 W. Commerce St., were approved by the Historic and Design Review Commission on Wednesday. A portion of the building, which is owned by local developer James Lifshutz, will be demolished, creating a paseo connecting West Commerce to the TPR building, which will feature a blackbox theater, and the attached Alameda Theater facing Houston Street.

"As you know, for decades, the walk from City Hall to Market Square, even though it's not a long distance, it's been a lonely walk," said Lifshutz, who also serves on the TPR board of directors. "It's been a vacant, ugly, blighted stretch ... The idea of fixing up the streetscape and revitalizing that stretch has long been hoped for."

Lifshutz, the developer behind the Blue Star Arts Complex, said TPR employees are scheduled to move into their new digs "shortly," with a grand opening scheduled around May.

The 300 block of West Commerce Street. Photo taken January 2020. Photo by Ben Olivo | Heron
The Kline's building (in gray) stands in the middle of the 300 block of West Commerce Street. The former Continental Hotel building stands on the left. Photo by Ben Olivo | Heron

As for the Kline's building, which is a local landmark that dates back to at least 1958, Lifshutz said he wasn't sure how many tenants will fill the ground level and the second floor. The assumption is that a restaurant or bar will operate next to the paseo; Lifshutz said the tenant or tenants should "activate that space in an interesting and valuable way."

"It just adds visual interest and adds stickiness for pedestrians who are walking past or for whom that will be a destination," he said.

I asked Lifshutz about the kind of tenants he was looking for—not necessarily in terms of use, but in terms of affordability. Will they resemble the West Side or something more gentrified? It's a question I've been pondering of late? Right now, he said, he's just looking to renovate the space and complete the shell. "It's a process and I'm not there yet," he said.

Bring on the housing

Across the street, spanning the entire block, stands the former Continental Hotel, a three-story city-owned structure that will be sold to a developer (most likely to local developer Weston Urban, as the only applicant of a solicitation process, the San Antonio Express-News reported last month) to renovate into mixed-income housing. Undoubtedly, Weston Urban will convert the ground-level into retail and restaurant spaces as to activate the street—a priority of Weston Urban and the city.

As the owner of roughly a dozen properties in this western half of downtown, Weston Urban intends to build multiple housing developments, all with retail on the ground level, totaling something like 1,000 new units.

Future housing and retail in this area, whether it comes from Weston Urban or Lifshutz or other property owners, will likely cater to the university demographic: students, faculty and staff alike. Part of the expansion of the University of Texas at San Antonio's downtown campus will manifest in these parts, in particular on Dolorosa street, a block south of West Commerce, where new buildings for its National Security Collaboration Center, the College of Business and the School of Data Science will go.

300 block of West Commerce Street
Map of the 300 block of West Commerce
1) The Leeds building, 345 W. Commerce St., owned by a local partnership group that includes members of the Gembler family. 2) The Kline's building, 337 W. Commerce St., owned by local developer James Lifshutz. 3) Commercial building at 331 W. Commerce St. owned by a New Mexico-based entity. 4) Two-story commercial building owned by an entity based in Aurora, Colorado. 5) The former Continental Hotel, 322 W. Commerce St., likely to be sold to Weston Urban by current owner the city of San Antonio. 6) Texas Public Radio future headquarters. 7) San Pedro Creek Culture Park current phase. Map by Heron | Google

The rest of the block

The building sandwiched between the Kline's and the creek, the one with the old neon signs at 331 W. Commerce St., is slated to be renovated and eventually house a food and beverage operator.

"Options could include space for special events and also a potential rooftop bar, which would have stunning views of the creek project," said Patrick Shearer, a local realtor.

Shearer represents the New Mexico-based owner, registered as 331 W Commerce LP, which has the same address as the owner of 1900 Broadway, the Stay Golden Social House property that's being sold and folded into the Jefferson Bank headquarters project.

"The focus will be on something that will appeal to locals, whether it’s UTSA students living nearby, families strolling along the creek, or people attending a special event at TPR or the Alameda," said Shearer, who declined to name the owner. "I think if you build it for the locals, tourists will love it, too."

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Three or four years ago, the city ran a clinic from the Leeds building, 345 W. Commerce St., before vacating. The local ownership group is looking to sell the building, which stands opposite The Vistana apartment mid-rise, co-owner Curtis Gembler said.

Another notable building is the retail spot across from Penner's, which is also located next to the creek. Most recently, it served as an art gallery, and an upscale Mexican arts store before that—but it's been closed for a few years. In 2016, the Suneson family, which has ties to San Antonio, sold the two-story building to an entity called Am Yakes LLC of Aurora, Colorado, which could not be reached for comment.


West Commerce project

At $15 million, the reconstruction of West Commerce is among the largest capital projects slated for downtown.

The first phase, from Santa Rosa to North St. Mary's streets, will include the block that includes San Pedro Creek. Eighteen months ago, construction of this segment supposed in January 2019. That work couldn't begin until utility work underneath San Pedro Creek could was finished. Now, construction is scheduled to begin this summer, and be completed by December 2021. Other portions of Commerce west of Santa Rosa, all the way to Colorado Street, have later completion dates.

Commentary: The Decade of Downtown is over. Now the hard work begins.

[ Editor's Note: I realize one question that remains unanswered in this piece is this one: Why would the city allow a local landmark, the one which most recently housed the Dollar General, to be demolished? I will ask the city's Office of Historic Preservation that question next week, and will update this piece accordingly. ]

Contact Ben Olivo at 210-421-3932 | | @rbolivo on Twitter

The Riverview Towers at 111 Soledad St. is being sold to Winston Hotels of Raleigh, N.C. Taken Oct. 3, 2019. Photo by Ben Olivo | Heron
Riverview Towers at 111 Soledad St. will be converted into a mixed-use building. Photo by Ben Olivo | Heron

North Carolina-based Winston Hotels is in the process of purchasing the Riverview Towers office building at 111 Soledad St., and plans to convert most of the floors into a pair of hotels.

The Historic and Design Review Commission on Wednesday granted final approval for the renovation plans, which include 342 hotel rooms, three floors of office space and a rooftop bar. Winston Hotels is buying the building from S.A.-based Primera Partners.

The deal is likely to close this year, with renovation work beginning in early 2020, said Mathew A. Jalazo, Winston Hotels' executive vice president of development. The renovation is expected to take two years to complete. Jalazo declined to disclose the sale price, as well as the renovation cost.

The hotel space will take up floors 7-20, and will consist of two Marriott brands—AC Hotel and Element Hotel. The office space will occupy floors 3-6.

The rooftop bar will rest on top of the 13th floor of the shorter structure, which overlooks Commerce Street and Main Plaza. A restaurant, and potentially some retail space, will occupy the first floor as well as the two hotel lobbies. Renderings submitted to the HDRC showed the Subway being moved from its current position facing Soledad to another spot facing Commerce Street.

Current tenants, which includes some city departments, will be moved to their new areas of the building soon after the building is sold. Others will be phased out.

The city of San Antonio, for example, will eventually move its offices currently in Riverview Towers, which includes the human resources department, into the old Frost Tower.

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This is Winston Hotels first project in Texas.

"We've loved the San Antonio market for a long time and we've been trying to find a project to do here," Jalazo said. "We were lucky enough to find this building that worked very well for what we wanted to do. We think long-term San Antonio is a great outlook as a market. We're long-term holders."

Winston Hotels of Raleigh, N.C., plans to purchase the Riverview Towers office building and convert it into a primarily hotel property. Courtesy Campo Architects
Winston Hotels of Raleigh, N.C., plans to purchase the Riverview Towers office building and convert it into a primarily hotel property. Courtesy Campo Architects
Winston Hotels of Raleigh, N.C., plans to purchase the Riverview Towers office building and convert it into a primarily hotel property. Courtesy Campo Architects
Winston Hotels of Raleigh, N.C., plans to purchase the Riverview Towers office building and convert it into a primarily hotel property. Courtesy Campo Architects
Winston Hotels of Raleigh, N.C., plans to purchase the Riverview Towers office building and convert it into a primarily hotel property. Courtesy Campo Architects
Winston Hotels of Raleigh, N.C., plans to purchase the Riverview Towers office building and convert it into a primarily hotel property. Courtesy Campo Architects

Contact Ben Olivo at 210-421-3932 | | @rbolivo on Twitter

The Witte building is located at 135 E. Commerce St. BEN OLIVO | SAN ANTONIO HERON

The $7.5 million rehabilitation of the Witte building on East Commerce Street—aka, the Chinese restaurant—is well underway.

Esquire Tavern owner Chris Hill is rehabbing the 1890s building to hold a tiki bar on the River Walk, an Asian restaurant on street level, office and event space, four micro-apartments on the top floor, and a new public staircase and elevator from the street level to the River Walk.

Houston Eaves, beverage director at the Esquire Tavern, will lead the tiki bar; Myles Worrell will serve as head bartender.

"We did a tiki trip last year and started in San Francisco and then to L.A. and San Diego," Hill said. "We saw pretty much the whole gamut from the beginnings of the pre-World War II to Trader Vic's to Smuggler's Cove."

Hill has hired Jill Giles to design the interior.

The Commerce Street-facing restaurant will offer some sort of Asian menu, Hill said, "to sort of go with the Tiki bar."

He's still looking for an operator.

The four units will be around 300 or 400 square feet with 14-foot ceilings and balconies.

"We think it's going to be under $1,000 a month," said Hill, who declined to give the overall cost of the project.

The second floor will consist of 1,000 square feet of banquet and event space.

The project is receiving a portion of a $5.3 million incentive grant from the Houston Street Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone. It's also receiving something called the Riverwalk Capital Improvements Reimbursement Grant worth up to $1 million for the stairway and elevator improvements. Other incentives include $137,910 in SAWS impact fee waivers, $21,000 in city fee waivers, and an Inner City Incentive Fund Grant worth $800,000.

Hill anticipates completion in exactly one year. It's the same timeline as the Witte's sister project, the 22-level Canopy by Hilton down the block at Commerce and St. Mary's streets.

That project will include a full restaurant on the River Walk, which Chef Andrew Weissman will assist with in terms of the menu; it's not a new Weissman restaurant. "He's just helping out," Hill said. "We're thrilled to get him to assist us."

Setting It Straight: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of The Esquire Tavern's beverage director. It's Houston Eaves.

Contact Ben Olivo: 210-421-3932 | | @rbolivo on Twitter

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