SAN ANTONIO – An octagonal building with a green glass roof, the historic 31-story Tower-Life Building will undergo a multi-million dollar transformation starting in 2024.
“For as long as I can remember, this has been the hallmark of our horizon,” said John Wiegand, a developer and investor from Alamo Capital Advisors.
For the past 70 years, the building has been owned by the Zahri family of San Antonio.
AT partnership with Bexar County, the Wiegand Company, real estate developer Ed Cross, and the renowned San Antonio Company. McCombs family are transforming the iconic neo-Gothic skyscraper from 1929 into a multifunctional residential complex.
He said the building was actually an early example of “mixed use” with the flagship San Antonio department store Sears and Roebuck on the first six floors, with offices above it.
“We have a chance to breathe new life into this building,” said Wiegand, “a restaurant on the first floor overlooking the waterfront, above which there are 234 apartments. The upper floors offer breathtaking views of the city.
But he said the partnership would also help protect the building’s 93-year history and cultural significance.
Because the Tower-Life building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Wiegand said the partnership is working with the National Park Service and the Texas Historical Commission.
“We are getting guidance on how to play by the rules and standards of conservation,” Wiegand said.
He said he remembers being “stunned” by what he saw.
“The beauty on the outside and the architectural details on the inside were incredible.” – Wiegand
Originally known as the Smith-Young Tower, it was designed by renowned architect Atlee B. Ayres, whose office was in the building he envisioned.
“We will bring it back to a state of financial stability and make it self-sustaining again,” Wiegand said.
He said half of the 234 units will have below-market rents to create a community that is a mixture of “career, background and age.”
For example, he said, “People who have to work downtown, maybe they’re in the conference business, maybe they’re in the food and beverage industry, in restaurants, maybe they’re city or county employees. UTSA students will definitely need housing.”
Wiegand said a friend of his told him that when it comes to historic buildings, “you don’t feel like an owner. You feel like a manager for the next generation.”
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