For more than four decades, the office building at the corner of Broadway and East Hildebrand Avenue held employees of AT&T and its predecessor companies SBC and Southwestern Bell.
By this summer, a new owner could determine the fate of the building and its 10 acres near the headwaters of the San Antonio River.
Communications giant AT&T, which moved its corporate headquarters from San Antonio to Dallas in 2008, put the building on the market at the end of February. While the company relocated its main offices from downtown, it still houses workers in the building at 4119 Broadway as well as at 105 Auditorium Circle.
The company sold its building at 1010 N. St. Mary’s St. in 2014, but still leases the space.
The eight-story Broadway building, which is valued on Bexar County Appraisal District tax rolls at $17 million, is highly sought after by companies across the state, said Ed Cross, who is representing the seller in the deal.
Cross, who heads Cushman & Wakefield-San Antonio Commercial Advisors, said bids closed April 12. The team is taking a few weeks to analyze which has the best price and the best terms to close the deal.
“It’s not a deal until the check clears the bank,” Cross said. That means it could be another 90 to 120 days before a sale is completed.
Barring any unusual circumstances, the public could find out who the new owner is by late July or August.
“We’ve had just a wide range of interested parties,” Cross said. “We’ve had good, strong local interest. We’ve also had interest from across the state – Houston, Austin and Dallas in particular – and some from out of state.”
The proposed uses include offices, apartments, student housing and a hotel, Cross said.
Officials at University of the Incarnate Word, just across Hildebrand from the building, have made no secret of their interest in the property as the private college experiences growing pains and needs space for students, employees and new or expanding programs.
The last major development in the area was the 2010 opening of the high-rise condominium tower The Broadway across Broadway from the AT&T building. The 20-floor, 90-unit condominium structure, owned by McCombs Enterprises, was built on the site of Earl Abel’s restaurant, which operated on that corner from 1940 to 2006.
More recently, residential and office development in the Broadway corridor has been at and near the Pearl complex closer to downtown. Jefferson Bank will soon move its corporate headquarters to a 12-story building there.
And Credit Human, formerly San Antonio Credit Union, also is planning a move.
Cross said selling the AT&T building, no matter what happens, shows the kind of interest there still is in Midtown despite the boom on south Broadway.
“This end of Broadway is finally coming into its own,” he said.
Another corporate giant had the same idea in 1956 when it moved into the area populated by Earl Abel’s and what is now UIW.
United States Automobile Association, a membership-based car insurance company for military officers founded in 1922, was fast outgrowing its first headquarters on Grayson Street near the Fort Sam Houston Quadrangle and explored several sites for a new HQ.
The 10-acre property was close enough to downtown and to what was then the North Side to allow employees commuting by car and bus to get to work easily. With 264,000 square feet of office space and a large cafeteria, USAA’s new headquarters became one of the largest air-conditioned buildings in the Southwest when it opened in May 1956, according to USAA biographer Paul T. Ringenbach.
The daily newspaper San Antonio News described the building as rising “impressively from its quiet surroundings – a dazzling giant of glass, marble and aluminum.” It featured fast elevators and escalators.
As USAA grew in members, products and employees, it began the first phases of construction on its current sprawling campus between Interstate 10 and Fredericksburg Road near the South Texas Medical Center and sold the building to Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. in 1974.
Expansions and upgrades have added about 100,000 square feet to the building and a parking garage with 800 spaces.
What happens with the building depends on the buyer and what is considered the highest and best use for the location, but Cross said the bones of the structure are sturdy and he doesn’t want to see it go.
“When the bomb goes off, that’s where I want to be,” Cross said of the sturdiness of the construction. “It’s a really attractive building. I hope whoever buys it doesn’t tear it down.”