200 Austin Highway: A Neighborhood Entrepreneur's Office Building
In the City of Alamo Heights, near the intersection of Broadway and Austin Highway, there is a new office building at 200 Austin Highway. Designed to be a place for the neighborhood entrepreneur to call home, this unique Class A office building is one of many real estate transformations happening at this bustling intersection.
The Property Story
Local real estate developers, Ridgemont Properties, purchased the site which was occupied by a drive-through bank that was no longer operational. Originally, this area of Alamo Heights was considered the suburbs, so the site required a more car-centric functionality. Now that the area is becoming more urban, the function of the site has changed dramatically. Once purchased, Ridgemont Properties then engaged the community for feedback. They found that the biggest need was for local entrepreneurs of small businesses to have a place to operate.
The Design Story
Ridgemont then chose to work with Studio 8 to engage in exploration with them to bring this community feedback into reality. Studio 8 is an Austin-based architecture/interior design firm that opened the doors to their San Antonio location in 2011. One of the market sectors in their portfolio was small office buildings, among other commercial real estate projects, which made the perfect fit for what Ridgemont was trying to achieve. The landscape architecture was designed by TBG Partner's San Antonio studio.
Several options were explored through the design phase, including the possibility of a retail component. The end result was primarily office space. The facade design was important, with one side facing the harsh Western sun and a main thoroughfare in Alamo Heights. They were also tasked with coming up with solutions for a site that was partially within the 100-year flood plain. The back of the building faced a residential neighborhood, and designers did not want to neglect this view for both tenants and neighbors, so efforts were taken to specify mature trees as well as balconies for the tenants to tie them both together.
Being that 200 Austin Highway is a smaller office building, the designers did not want it to look like a cold box on a site, so special efforts were taken to break up the form to result in a beautiful aesthetic. They decided to incorporate the warmth of wood tones to soften the contemporary look of the building, but natural wood would not withstand the brutal western texas sun, so a metal cladding with a wood look was specified to hold up to the test of time. The interior continued this concept by incorporating natural wood in an open feature staircase.
To bring the outside in, TBG Partners collaborated in tying the building together with the landscape. They wanted the lobby to feel special and also serve as a space for tenants to collaborate and have events. The ground floor lobby has a window wall to visually tie you to the outdoors, while just outside the lobby there is an open area with outdoor seating that also incorporates the same wood tones.
Pandemic and Weather Influences
The building was already in the construction phase by the time the pandemic started affecting San Antonio. As with many projects going on at the same time, Megan Moshier of Studio 8 told MiSA that there were typical delays as were many projects going on at the same time around town. In some instances, what was originally going to take 12 weeks turned into 16 weeks, etc. The design and project management teams had to shift communication to virtual methods for a short time. Overall, it caused each team (project management, design, contractor and subcontractors) to adapt and work together to shift quickly and create solutions that were good for Ridgemont Properties and future tenants.
The landscape design was more affected by the 2021 snow than the pandemic. Elaine Kearney of TBG Partners told MiSA,
“We had just completed the landscape installation and actually had the final punch list scheduled that week. We ended up pushing it off because it was cold and miserable out. By the time we came back the next week to do the final punch, we had lost a lot of plants due to the freeze. That was Mother Nature throwing a curveball.”
The plant palette that TBG Partners specified for the site was mostly mature and hardy native plants and was likely to bounce back from the freeze. One plant species, Bi-color Iris, was such a young plant that it did not survive the a-typically harsh conditions for south Texas and would eventually be replaced.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Office Building
One of the rewarding aspects of the building has been the community’s positive response. Megan Moshier told MiSA,
“I live in the neighborhood so we have friends from our school and neighbors making positive comments about the building and it’s nice. They feel the warm and welcoming nature of it, both from the architecture and the landscape, and that has been fun and rewarding for us”.
See our conversation with Studio 8 Director, Megan Moshier and TBG Partners Principal, Elaine Kearney about their involvement with the design of the building and the site at 200 Austin Highway.
Owner: Ridgemont Properties
Architecture/Interior Design: Studio 8
Landscape Architecture: TBG Partners
Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing: Alderson & Associates, Inc.
Structural: Dunaway Associates
Civil: Pape-Dawson Engineers
General Contractor: R.C. Page Construction