SAN ANTONIO SIZZLES
It's the No. 4 boom town in the US, according to Forbes?, and it's home to more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies. So we took a quick trip down I-35 to San Antonio to see what all the fuss is about.
Never mind the business overlap between San Antonio and DFW, check out these stats: 3,200 new jobs were added in May, unemployment's at 7.3%, and in Q2 there was 15k SF of positive office absorption—even rents are rising (up 1.6% over Q1). What's more, San Antonio is the No. 1 tourism spot in Texas, but local brokers tell us you won't find many non-tourist businesses downtown; they all skirt the edges.
We snapped San Antonio Convention and Visitor Bureau?s Krystal Jones on Friday in the Hyatt Regency's new River Terrace Bar. The 55' granite bar is among the $30M revamp efforts for the 28-year-old hotel. Located on the River Walk, the first phase of renovations (including a new faade and remodeled lobby) are complete. Behind Krystal is the Hyatt Regency?s new restaurant, Q (as in barbecue, not the gadget wizard from James Bond), which opened in February.
Already in the works, the second phase of renovations includes improving hotel meeting spaces and the ballroom with upgraded technology and redesigned air walls to improve aesthetics and enhance sound quality. (That way you can hear the Mariachis in high-def surround sound.)
Redevelopment is also on the agenda for HemisFair Park, built to host the 1968 World's Fair (fun fact: the mascot of that World's Fair was Luther the Dragon who was renamed H.R. Pufnstuf and given an odd television show) with the Tower of the Americas (the second tallest observation tower in the US at 750'). The city has retained Populous, the San Antonio Convention Center's architectural planning consulting firm, to explore options for the 78-acre park and its eyesores, which include boarded-up buildings. We asked developer, Lynd Co COO David Lynd, about it and he tells us downtown is great for tourists, but terrible for the indigenous population. Until a plan is laid out with tax breaks for developers, there will be little interest in new projects in the HemisFair area, he says.
Krystal tells us that San Antonio is in the process of adding eight miles to its River Walk (increasing to 15 miles) as part of the San Antonio River Improvements Project. The first two miles of the extension opened about a month ago and links downtown with more attractions including museums and historic missions. A 1.3-mile stretch was added in 2009 connecting downtown with the former Pearl Brewery, which is now home to multiple restaurants and stores as well as the Culinary Institute of America?s San Antonio campus (where you can watch the budding chefs learning their art while you snack on a freshly made croissant).
Before Memorial Day next year, SeaWorld San Antonio will open Aquatica, an upscale water park with up-close animal experiences, rides and sandy beaches. Like its counterpart in Orlando (which cost a reported $50M to build— no word was uttered on the San Antonio cost), there will be an additional admission to get in and guest numbers will be limited to the park each day. (Who knew stingrays were so exclusive?)