Preservation win: San Antonio panel blocks demolition of historic sites

Venture led by David Adelman wants to replace structures with apartments, retail

Bid to Redevelop Historic San Antonio Buildings Rejected

A photo illustration of developer David Adelman along with 900 West Houston Street in San Antonio (Getty, Area Real Estate, LoopNet)

A local developer’s bid to redevelop a historic property on San Antonio’s West Side has once again been shot down. 

The Zoning Board of Adjustment rejected Master Property Partners’ appeal to demolish the Rich Book Building, at 900 West Houston Street, and an adjacent structure, siding with residents and preservationists who fiercely opposed the project, the San Antonio Express-News reported

The development venture, led by David Adelman and restaurateur Barclay Anthony, sought to overturn the Historic and Design Review Commission’s March decision. The developers aim to replace the structures with apartments, retail and parking.

To succeed in their appeal, the developers needed to prove that retaining and renovating the buildings would cause “unreasonable economic hardship,” a benchmark set by city code. Adelman indicated plans to appeal the decision in District County Court.

Adelman argued that attempts to attract tenants or buyers had failed due to high renovation costs and safety concerns. Estimates in their application pegged the cost of refurbishing the Rich Book Building at over $6 million and the adjacent building at $1.1 million. Converting the Rich Book Building into offices or apartments would cost even more, making it financially unfeasible.

An executive from ArchComm, an engineering and architecture firm, supported Adelman’s stance, describing the buildings as being in such poor condition that rehabilitation was impractical. Letters from potential lessees and buyers echoed concerns about extensive repairs and safety issues.

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However, local residents and organizations, including the Historic Westside Residents Association and the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, have strongly opposed the demolition. They argue that tearing down more historic structures would further erode the cultural heritage of an area that once thrived commercially but now suffers from neglect. 

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Graciela Sánchez, leader of the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, suggested her organization might be interested in purchasing the buildings. Adelman said he would consider selling at the assessed value if such an offer were made.

Supporters of the demolition, such as the Gardendale Neighborhood Association, believe the redevelopment would help revitalize the area. 

The Rich Book Building, built in 1923, has housed various businesses and apartments, while the adjacent early 1900s office building has also served multiple functions. Both buildings have been plagued by drug activity and fire damage.

—Quinn Donoghue 

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