Former San Antonio Brewery Finds New Mixed-Use Life

In San Antonio, Texas, buildings along the city’s famed pedestrian riverfront tend not to stay vacant for very long — even abandoned old industrial spaces eventually get the renovation-for-mixed-use treatment.

One of the latest examples is an adaptive reuse project that transformed the vacant Pearl Brewery into a sustainable development project, with offices, retail shops and restaurants, earning a LEED Gold certification for Commercial Interiors. During the renovation, San Antonio firm Lake|Flato Architects incorporated rooftop photovoltaic solar arrays for power generation, a rainwater collection system and drought-tolerant landscaping.

Pearl Brewery 1After operating since 1883, the Pearl Brewery was closed by its owner, Pabst Brewing, in the early 1990s. Today, it has been transformed into a 26-acre entertainment district called the Pearl Brewery/Full Goods Warehouse.  Completed in 2009, the project was recently named one of the Top Ten Green Projects of 2013 by AIA/COTE.

Diagram showing some of the green aspects of the Pearl Brewery complex. Image via Lake|Flato Architects.

Diagram showing some of the green aspects of the Pearl Brewery complex. Image via Lake|Flato Architects.

The collection of buildings is anchored by the old brewery’s 67,000-square-foot warehouse, which now houses offices and retail spaces, using many of the building’s original interconnected catwalks. In other parts of the complex, the district includes 350 residential units, restaurants, a boutique hotel, an outdoor farmer’s market and a campus for the Culinary Institute of America.

A view of the Pearl Brewery's Farmers Market event. Image via Lake|Flato Architects.

A view of the Pearl Brewery’s Farmers Market event. Image via Lake|Flato Architects.

To preserve the flavor of the site’s industrial past, Lake|Flato salvaged 64 percent of the elements from the old factory and retrofitted them for new functions. For example, huge beer vats from the warehouse were converted into water cisterns. During the renovation, the company used low-VOC-emitting products and diverted 83 percent of construction and demolition materials from the landfill. Some of the site’s original concrete foundation was crushed and reused in nearby river improvement projects.

By using xeriscaping with native plants and a rainwater collection system, the complex uses 87 percent less potable water for irrigation on its grounds. On the roof of the main warehouse, a white coating helps reflect solar heat to help regulate interior temperatures. The solar array is also the largest to be mounted on a rooftop in Texas, Lake|Flato said, generating about 200 kW of electricity and providing 26 percent of the building’s energy needs.

Randy Woods is a Seattle-based writer and editor with 20+ years of experience in the business publishing world. A former managing editor of Seattle Business, iSixSigma, Claims and Waste Age magazines, he has covered topics that include newspaper publishing, entrepreneurism, green businesses, insurance, environmental protection and garbage hauling (yes, really). He also contributes to the Career Center Blog for The Seattle Times and edits a photography magazine called PhotoMedia. When not working, he likes to hide out in Seattle movie theaters and attend film festivals—even on sunny days.