By: Madison Iszler | From: San Antonio Express News

Across the San Antonio River from the glitzy restaurants, apartments and shops at Pearl, the river banks are lined with parking lots separated by crumbling sidewalks and narrow side streets.

That’s about to change.

By the end of 2026, Oxbow Development Group, a subsidiary of Pearl owner Silver Ventures, is set to double the footprint of the popular destination on property it owns both across the river and just north of Pearl. Its plan adds 682 apartments, a 166-room hotel, parking garages and about 70,000 square feet of space for more restaurants, bars and offices. The company is also building more bridges across the river, closing off more streets to cars and creating small parks.

“All of this is in the vein of connectivity,” Oxbow CEO Bill Shown said. “What can we do to really stitch everything back together?”

The Pearl-mirroring developments will cost “a whole bunch,” he said, because of rising interest rates and increasing costs of materials, labor and insurance. In part because of that reality, the company for the first time has begun seeking investors to put up several hundred million dollars to help pay for its projects.

Oxbow also plans to approach government officials to seek more subsidies for the development’s next phases. They wouldn’t be the first. Silver Ventures received more than $49 million worth of property tax breaks, cash grants, fee waivers and forgivable loans from the city of San Antonio and Bexar County to transform the dilapidated brewery into a posh urban community. 

“We’ll pull every lever that’s available, because we want this to happen,” Shown said.

Work underway

Construction has already begun on Coopers Row, a 263-unit complex at East Elmira and Schiller streets. It’s named for the coopers — barrel makers — who once worked at Pearl Brewing Co. Of those units, 257 are apartments and six are live-work spaces with areas that can be used as storefronts. The company is already seeking tax breaks for the project.

Across East Quincy Street, an ice house and restaurants are slated to be built.

Another 75 apartments and about 10,000 square feet of commercial space are planned across Schiller Street. The hotel next door will offer fewer services and be less pricey than the 143-room Hotel Emma, which is among San Antonio’s toniest lodgings, Oxbow executives said. The new hotel will have meeting rooms and a lobby bar.

A large parking garage and 144 apartments are to be built on a lot bounded by East Locust, Myrtle and Elmira streets and East Euclid Avenue. Those units will be less expensive than the other housing developed by Oxbow, Shown said. 

On the other side of the river, just north of La Gloria, the firm is planning 200 apartments with rents akin to its luxury Cellars at Pearl complex. The building will also have a rooftop bar and about 40,000 square square feet of commercial space.

Oxbow wants to fill some of the new commercial space with retail and services businesses such as a small grocery store, barber shop, hair and nail salon, or dry-cleaning operation because that’s what existing Pearl tenants and nearby homeowners have been asking for, Shown said.

Attracting a grocer such as H-E-B or Trader Joe’s is difficult, he said, because the finances don’t work. Such companies may not want to pay rent, there may not be enough parking for a store and they could be competing with H-E-B’s Central Market location, which is less than 3 miles north on Broadway Street.

Shown said he is eager to see whether Pullman Market in the former Samuels Glass Co. building at Pearl can meet some of the demand. The building is being converted into a market with four restaurants, a dessert bar and a specialty grocery store with grab-and-go items as well as a butcher, fishmonger and bakery. It’s scheduled to open in May.

More to come

Oxbow’s plans don’t end there. It owns slivers of land at West Grayson and East Elmira streets, at East Myrtle and East Elmira streets, next to the East Quincy Townhomes, between East Elmira Street and the river, and between East Park and Newell Avenue and Elmira Street. Executives say they have not yet decided what they plan to do with those sites.

The company also continues to acquire more land as attractive deals arise, but those transactions are becoming less frequent, Shown said. The success of Pearl has made some of them more financially difficult.

When GrayStreet Partners put nearly 15 acres across Broadway from Pearl up for sale in 2021, Oxbow tried to buy it but came in second to Fulcrum Development. GrayStreet and Fulcrum have said they plan to build a mixed-use development with stores, restaurants, housing and a hotel on the land.

RELATED: GrayStreet sells Pearl-area land, site of proposed mixed-use project, to Fulcrum

“We created all this incredible value and it’s reflected in land prices right now, land prices that we can’t afford,” Shown said. “They don’t make sense. So, opportunistically, if and when a really smart acquisition presents itself we’re in the market. We always will be. But it’ll be very selective.”

Since Silver Ventures bought the brewery in 2001 and began overhauling it, Pearl’s success combined with the $72 million Museum Reach project have sparked a wave of development in the Tobin Hill and Government Hill neighborhoods. 

Impact on area

Homebuyers, renters and employers are flocking to the area, driving up property values and empty lots to be replaced with more housing, restaurants and stores. 

The median value of single-family homes within 1 mile of Pearl jumped to $366,740 in 2023 from $250,570 in 2019, while the median value of commercial properties surged to $725,360 from $407,350 during the same period. Today, there are 4,815 apartments within 1 mile of Pearl’s main plaza. Of those, 75% were built since 2006 and 57% since 2014, according to real estate data company CoStar.

Prices at Pearl are much higher than the city overall. The average market rent for an apartment at Pearl is $2,649 a month, according to CoStar, compared with $1,888 for apartments within 1 mile of its main plaza and $1,246 for apartments throughout the San Antonio area. Average asking rent for retail space was $22.34 per square foot during the first quarter, compared with $19.46 across the area.

RELATED: 261-unit apartment complex near Pearl to be finished this spring as area’s redevelopment rockets

The strong market is attracting more players for all sorts of development.

Embrey recently completed a 338-unit apartment complex along East Ashby Place, and developer David Adelman converted the former Borden Creamery warehouse next door into space for office and restaurant tenants. Jefferson Bank erected an office building for its headquarters and other tenants along Broadway last year, near Credit Human’s headquarters and an adjacent office building built by Oxbow.

Lynd and Opportunity Home San Antonio are putting the finishing touches on 261 apartments along West Josephine Street across from Hawthorne Academy.

Urban Genesis plans to build a pair of apartment complexes and town houses on land it bought between West Grayson and East Locust streets, on the 800 block of Elmira Street and near Armadillo Boulders on Camden Street. McCombs Enterprises wants to build housing, office space, a hotel and outdoor areas on a site next to the San Antonio Museum of Art. 

At 2100 Broadway, the family behind barbecue chain Terry Black’s Barbecue plans to build two restaurants, a hotel and parking.