Plans to build tower on historic Joske building denied

Historic and Design Review Commission votes against tower atop Joske

SAN ANTONIO – Plans to build a 26-story hotel on top of the historic Joske's building in Alamo Plaza are on hold for now.

The city's Historic and Design Review Commission voted 6-2 Wednesday evening to deny the developer's latest proposal to build the tower.

Several citizens and downtown business leaders spoke for and against the proposal at a lengthy public hearing.

Betty Dabney was one of several citizens defending the Alamo by taking a stand against the proposed 500 room, 390 foot tall hotel tower that would be built on top of the Joske's building.

"I hope you have the courage as did our fallen heroes to defend the Alamo from its continued encroachment," Dabney told the commission.

Several conservationists made the case that the 26-story tower wasn't an appropriate development because it would overshadow Alamo plaza.

Nancy Avellar, President of the San Antonio Conservation Society said aside from the impact on the plaza and the Alamo, the tower adds more hotel rooms that she thinks the city can do without.

"They're talking about the next great thing and this is going to put us on the map," Avellar said referring to the hotel. "We've had how many hotels that have been developed come on line in the last ten years and has our economy soared like the promises they made?"

Standing on the other side of the line drawn in the sand were those who believed the tower and it's additional retail space falls in line with the mayor's plans to strengthen and revitalize downtown.

"This has been a neglected area. It has been a stagnant, static area for years," said Pat DiGiovani, CEO, Centro Partnership. "So, bringing a new development that could really get street activity, pedestrian activity, is an important element to our revitalization."

Despite a last minute redesign of the development that reduced the size of the tower and pushed it further off of Alamo Street, the HDR Commission voted to deny the project, citing concerns about shadows cast on the plaza during winter months and the overall size of the tower.

DiGiovani worried the decision could have a negative impact on future development in the downtown business district. He said the city can make economic progress while protecting its heritage at the same time.

"We need to treat this area with the dignity and respect that it really deserves because there's only one Alamo," said DiGiovani. "It is our national shrine, it's the heritage of Texas and we want to build off of it, grow it and leverage it to new heights."

Nancy Avellar said she wasn't opposed to development in the area but said she wouldn't support a big hotel tower.

The developer for the project left the meeting without commenting to reporters, saying only that he "needed to regroup" before making a comment on the future of the project.

For a list of recent stories Tim Gerber has done, click here.

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