• City’s Historic and Design Review Commission gives Rosario’s green light
• Neighboring restaurant argued against construction of a wall at site
• Project will incorporate part of older structure dating to Civil War
Site work has begun at the former El Mirador where Southtown eatery Rosario’s is relocating, but only after a neighboring restaurant made a last-ditch effort to reduce the size of the project.
Restaurateur Lisa Wong will spend an estimated nine to 12 months building a 16,000-square-foot-plus, two-story redo at 722 S. St. Mary’s St.
Preliminary approval from the city first came in December 2021. However, Peter Selig, owner of the adjacent Maverick Texas Brasserie, used social media to mount an opposition campaign, arguing construction of a 20-foot wall six inches from his property line would practically enclose Maverick’s patio.
Despite appeals from Selig and his supporters, the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission voted 6-2 on March 17 in favor of Rosario’s.
HDRC member Scott Carpenter said he understood Selig’s worries, but said such criticism should’ve arisen earlier in the approval process.
“It will change the character of the outdoor dining, but I don’t think it necessarily kills it,” Carpenter added.
“I think there are plenty of examples of tight urban courtyards that are used for outdoor dining that can be very delightful.”
Selig launched a Change.org petition, contending Wong’s proposal for “a massively overscaled structure with over 1,000 seats” would adversely effect nearby businesses and residents.
He added the planned north wall could block airflow and natural light, making half of the seating at Maverick unusable and threaten his restaurant’s viability.
Selig also said only allowing 30 on-site parking spaces at the relocated, bigger Rosario’s might worsen parking issues nearby.
“We seek dialogue, reason, compromise, as we extend a bridge to our neighbor and ask to reduce the wall’s negative impact,” Selig told commissioners.
His petition garnered more than 2,700 signatures by the time HDRC met. Included was noted local songwriter/poet Naomi Shihab Nye, who said Rosario’s current 910 S. Alamo St. footprint, instead, should be expanded.
“Why can’t they just add a second floor or additional seating onto (the) beloved existing building?” Nye wrote.
However, HDRC staff also received more than 600 voicemails, where a slim majority backed Rosario’s.
Wong, surprised by the controversy, explained to HDRC she worked with the city and neighbors, suggesting solutions for issues such as building size and noise.
“Now, on eve of approval, a new issue was raised that I didn’t even create. A neighbor wants me to solve his problem,” Wong said, referring to Maverick’s previous property improvements.
Selig said representatives from Maverick and Rosario’s talked before the commission meeting. Wong’s team afterward offered 70 square feet, which would’ve contained a 3-foot setback along half the length of Maverick’s patio. Selig requested a minimum 3-foot setback along all of Rosario’s new wall.
Wong said she offered compromises to Selig, but acknowledged the Rosario’s design doesn’t permit much space to realize such adjustments.
“Everything is so tight,” added Andrew Douglas, principal of Douglas Architects.
Some commission members said accommodations to Selig during the project’s concept phase could’ve been made.
“At the end of the day, our purview is this project as it is,” Commissioner Anne-Marie Grube said, adding Wong could negotiate minor space concessions later.
HDRC’s final approval came with conditions, including a larger setback for fencing along South St. Mary’s, and final landscaping and mural designs.
The $5 million project will preserve and incorporate part of the El Mirador structure, some of which dates to the Civil War.
It’ll also renovate and repurpose the existing King William Garden House on the site, and relocate the notable F.L. Dixon House to another portion of the property.
“The new Rosario’s location will pay homage to the historic elements of the past and will incorporate guests’ new dining needs such as outdoor dining areas, a rooftop terrace and roomier indoor gathering spaces,” Wong said in a Facebook post.