Revitalizing Downtown-Complex deal would result in new downtown skyscraper

BY JOSH BAUGH, San Antonio Express News : JUNE 26, 2014

SAN ANTONIO — Mayor Julián Castro and officials from Frost Bank and the Weston Urban development firm will announce Thursday afternoon that for the first time in a quarter century, San Antonio’s skyline could have a new skyscraper.

At an afternoon press conference, the officials will outline the structure of a proposed public-private partnership that would result in several property exchanges, including the city taking control of the Frost Bank tower at 100 W. Houston St., and the construction of a new “iconic” office tower for the bank. Weston Urban would also develop more than 300 residential units in downtown.

“This would be, without a question, a major turning point for downtown San Antonio,” Castro said in an exclusive interview. “You can see a very bright future with this investment.” If the plan comes to fruition, it would be the most significant development in Castro’s “Decade of Downtown” — an initiative he’s pushed during his five-year tenure to revitalize San Antonio’s urban core. “If anyone still doubts the ‘Decade of Downtown’ is happening, here you go,” he said. “It is.” Under the proposal, the city would convey five downtown properties to Weston Urban, Graham Weston‘s development company, and take ownership of the Frost tower, which is a stone’s throw away from City Hall. The city currently spends more than $3.4 million annually to lease office space in several downtown buildings. It would cancel those leases and consolidate its workforce in the Frost building. Included in the transaction would be Frost’s parking garage, which has more than 700 parking spaces. Weston Urban would construct a new skyscraper near the Frost tower, on the city block between West Travis Street, Camaron, East Houston Street and North Flores. Randy Smith, president of Weston Urban, said that while the skyscraper has yet to be designed, it will be an “iconic new addition to our skyline.” He and Frost officials pointed to the Frost tower in Austin that has become the state capital’s calling card. The deal, said Frost Bank Chief Financial Officer Phil Green, is the most tangible evidence the bank can give that it is rooted in San Antonio and committed to this city’s downtown.

The unsolicited public-private partnership proposal from Frost and Weston Urban is the first the city has accepted since the City Council adopted so-called “P-3” guidelines in 2012. City officials will officially request this week that Weston Urban and Frost submit a more detailed proposal — the next step in the process. Once it’s received, the city will open a 60-day public comment period, during which time it will accept and consider competing proposals.