SAN ANTONIO - The Lone Star Brewery was once one of those uniquely San Antonio landmarks. It was more than just a business, it was a meeting place, a swimming hole, a concert venue.
"It's very unique as a developer to have this land, access to the freeways, access to downtown, the water, that's why Lone Star is a very unique, it's a city within a city," said Lone Star's new owner, Mark Smith.
Developers have led tours through the empty buildings just south of downtown, several times over the years A lot of them thought they could revive the brewery, but this time is different. This time the man leading the tour, Mark Smith, has bought all the brewery buildings, and is putting his money where his dream lies.
"I'll probably be here for the rest of my life, you'll probably have to bury me here," said Smith.
It is a complex where in certain areas time stood still, the passageways, the sculpture, the wall art in the beer garden, seemingly waiting to be rediscovered. There are also markers of the past everywhere, even a sharpie tombstone etched on an office wall, marking the exact time the beer stopped flowing. There are also plenty of signs of what the Lone Star Brewery has become, graffiti lines many of the walls, spent spray cans lie on the floor. The last can of beer rolled off the assembly line in 1996, since then the place has been abandoned; the equipment is still here, the lockers, the desks, even Lone Star memorabilia left behind. Mark Smith hopes to restore the Lone Star to its former glory, and the gates of the old brewery, may be open sooner than people think.
"Cleaned everything up, just got it to where it's bringing everything back to life," said Smith.
As he walks through the newly mowed and trimmed grounds, Mark Smith talks about growing up in San Antonio, and spending time at the Lone Star during it's heyday. He sees Lone Star's past as a big part of its future.
"It was a place where everybody met and toured the brewery and had a good time, so I really like bringing the Texas heritage back to what it is, because we're losing that, and to me that's kind of important, I think everybody in San Antonio wants that," said Smith.
Smith and Aqualand Development own all of the Lone Star buildings, 36 acres, and they want to buy more. He envisions offices here within a year, residents on-site within two years. He envisions restaurants, bars, shops, all over the complex, and Texas music.
"Willie Nelson used to play here, on this stage," said Smith, as he points to a small platform backed with plywood.
Aug. 8, the Lone Star Brewery will open for a concert, sponsored appropriately by Lone Star Beer.
"The stage will be in the parking lot at the brewery and it will kind of be our first time to at least get some people back on the site," said Smith.
The beer garden, the pond, the pool are all part of Mark Smith's plan, but the first step the cleanup and concert. By the end of the week, he hopes to have the power on for the first time since beer left the brewery, perhaps a sign the future's bright.
"I want everyone to know it's coming back and how close we are to downtown, it's got a lot of great things the future is going to bring, " said Smith.
Mark Smith said he hopes the Lone Star development has the same economic impact as the old Pearl Brewery, but he also points out a big difference, the amount of new construction at the Pearl, wouldn't be needed at the Lone Star, the buildings are all there.
"I'm amazed at how many people's family members all worked here and lived in the neighborhood, it was part of the community, and so I hope that we can restore that," said Smith.
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