San Antonio's Historic and Design Review Commission has rejected an application for a hotel tower to be placed atop the old Joske's building downtown.
Even up until a minute before the last vote, no one could have guessed the final outcome of a vote by commissioners, who were torn over the decision. Half the members were for the project, and half were against. One member didn’t show up to the meeting because he is involved with the architects, Overland Partners, to restore the St. Anthony Hotel.
Following the presentation by the project leaders, who told commissioners they improved the design to match the historic nature of Alamo Plaza and that they knocked the number of proposed hotel rooms in half, residents spoke both in favor and against the tower.
Betty Dabney didn't like any form of the project.
"This tower would cast a shadow over much of Alamo Plaza and the grounds as we have seen," said Dabney.
Many others, who have a business interest in downtown, told commissioners they felt the tower would spur more activity in the downtown area, thereby increasing retail business.
Ben Brewer, president of the Downtown Alliance, said a vote against the proposal would send a negative message to future developers wanting to revitalize downtown.
"This area of downtown has been static at best over the past several decades from a development perspective," Brewer said.
The deadlock ended when commissioner Kathryn Rodriguez changed her position from favoring the idea, to a rejection of the deal.
"It was a real close call, but then they finally talked some sense into her down there and she changed the vote. Yes! So, I'm happy," said Sarah Reveley, who has adamantly opposed the tower.
Rivercenter Mall's general manager, Chris Oviatt, rushed out of the board room following the vote. Earlier he told the commission that he needed an answer one way or the other because of deadlines.
He didn’t want to comment, but said they "have to regroup and consider all our options."
HDRC Chair Tim Cone sided with those like Reveley, saying he didn't think the project was appropriate for Alamo Plaza as it was presented.