The owners of the historic WOAI building and its 46-story transmission tower want to build a 29-story mixed-use tower on the San Antonio River Walk site.
On Wednesday, the History and Design Review Board (HDRC) granted conceptual approval for the project, which involves both the restoration and demolition of parts of the century-old brick building located at 1035 Navarro Street, owned by a Sinclair Broadcasting group of investors.
Built in 1920, the building originally housed the Embleton Motor Company, according to documents the applicant submitted to the Office of Historic Preservation. Founded in 1922, WOAI moved into the building in 1927, occupying and modifying the structure over the years.
In 1949, WOAI-TV became San Antonio’s first television station and occupied the structure until owner Sinclair Broadcasting Group moved the studios in 2014 to its current location in northwest San Antonio.
(Today, WOAI Radio is an AM news / maintenance station owned by iHeartMedia and operates from studios in the Stone Oak area.)
Historic design guidelines require an archaeological investigation of the site because the project area is within a River Improvement Overlay District and is a designated local historic landmark. It is also adjacent to the historic route of the San Antonio River, “an area known to contain significant historical and prehistoric archaeological deposits,” according to HDRC documents.
The historic structure features an original brick facade as well as a stucco and ledger stone facade added in the 1940s and an addition. The owners plan to remove the exterior tiling and restore the original brick facade along the Navarro and North St. Mary’s sections and rehabilitate the newer facade on the west side of the building.
The addition and the rear parts of the structure will be shaved. After demolition, the owner is required to submit more detailed plans for the treatment of the remaining historic parts of the building to the HDRC for approval.
The design plans for the new tower, developed by architect Miguel Saldana de B&A Architects, show a condominium and hotel tower perched atop a three-level parking podium. A covered walkway faces the River Walk and a pedestrian ramp will provide access to the river.
The renderings do not include the transmission tower, and Saldana did not respond to a request for additional information about the project.
But notes from a design review committee meeting in May indicate that Saldana told commissioners that the transmission tower, destroyed and rebuilt in a plane collision in 1956, could remain “in. as a memorial “.
The WOAI property is located between the Riverview Condominiums and the Indigo Hotel in a section of downtown near the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts that has seen a wave of new residential and commercial developments in recent years.
Earlier this year, the towering Thompson Hotel and Arts Residences opened at 115 Lexington Ave., and on Augusta Street, a new residential development replaced the former Bright Shawl San Antonio Junior League event center.
Near the Southwest School of Art, the same developer behind the Thompson has proposed a mixed-use development straddling the River Walk that will include a Dream Hotel.
The 1960s El Tropicano Hotel in Lexington and North St. Mary’s Street is undergoing renovations, and CPS Energy’s recent rehabilitation of the old AT&T buildings on McCullough Avenue is complete.