Major transformation of Tower-Life Building to begin in 2024

Partners say Tower-Life’s history and financial stability are priorities

SAN ANTONIO – An eight-sided building topped by its green-glazed roof, the historic 31-story Tower-Life Building will undergo a multi-million dollar transformation beginning in 2024.

“It’s been the signature of our skyline for as long as I can remember,” said Jon Wiegand, a developer and investor with Alamo Capital Advisors.

The building had been owned for the past 70 years by the Zachry family of San Antonio.

In partnership with Bexar County, Wiegand’s company, developer Ed Cross and San Antonio’s well-known McCombs family are turning the iconic 1929 neo-Gothic skyscraper into mixed-use residential.

He said the building was actually an early example of “mixed-use” with San Antonio’s flagship Sears and Roebuck Department Store on the first six floors, with offices above it.

“We have a chance to steward this building into its new life,” Wiegand said, a restaurant on the ground floor overlooking the Riverwalk, with 234 apartments above it. Those on the upper levels will have a breathtaking taking view of the city.

But he said the partnership will also work to protect the building’s 93-year history and cultural significance.

Since the Tower-Life Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Wiegand said the partnership has been working with the National Park Service and the Texas Historical Commission.

“We receive guidance on how to play by the rules, the preservation standards,” Wiegand said.

He said he remembers being “blown away” by what he saw.

“The beauty that’s on the outside and then the architectural detail on the inside was incredible,” Wiegand

Originally known as the Smith-Young Tower, it was designed by the renowned architect Atlee B. Ayres, who had his office in the building he envisioned.

“We’ll guide it to a place of financial stability and being self-sustaining again,” Wiegand said.

He said half of the 234 apartments will have rents that are below market rate in order to create a community that’s a blend of “careers and backgrounds and ages.”

He said for instance, “People who have to work downtown, maybe they’re in the convention business, maybe they work in the food and beverage business, the restaurants, maybe they’re a city or a county employee. Students at UTSA certainly are going to need housing.”

Wiegand said a friend of his told him that when it comes to historic buildings, “You don’t feel like the owner. You feel like the steward for the next generation.”

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.