Designing for urban revitalization San Antonio’s boom

Emerging as an urban regeneration success story, the city of San Antonio is enjoying new vibrancy and relevance, especially in iconic neighborhoods like the Pearl District, where a decommissioned brewery campus has been transformed into an economically vital area attracting young professionals, tourists, seniors, and new businesses. 

One of the forces behind the recent rise is Dallas-based architecture firm three ( whose designs for some of San Antonio’s most notable and beloved new venues and residences have had a city-making impact.

Founded by Gary Koerner, AIA, three’s president and senior designer, the firm made waves globally with the design of the award-winning Hotel Emma, the centerpiece of a master plan that has reinvigorated the Pearl District. In partnership with interior designer Roman and Williams, the architects adapted a historic brewery into a one-of-a-kind five-star boutique hotel that takes industrial chic to new heights. One of the highest-earning hotels in Texas, Hotel Emma redefined the neighborhood, transforming it into a tony destination — and paving the way for new development. 

“Before Emma and the extended River Walk, San Antonio didn’t have many high-end offerings,” says Koerner. “Now it has become a viable option for people of all ages looking to enjoy an urban lifestyle without the big city grind.” 

With a track record of impactful environments in hospitality, senior living, multifamily residential and leisure, three’s approach to architecture — “design that lifts the human spirit” — focuses on tailored architectural opportunities to create emotional connections with residents and guests. The firm also emphasizes context, according to Koerner, who notes that the design approach for San Antonio projects is specific to that city’s history and culture. Applying their process to another city – Cleveland, Ohio, for example – would produce notably different results but with as much potential for impact.

This method is resonating with the San Antonio’s developers, already resulting in a raft of completed projects:

  • The Cellars at Pearl: an upscale ten-story apartment complex steps from Hotel Emma, with sophisticated high-end units, a range of luxury amenities, and a walkable lifestyle. 
  • Hotel Contessa and the Westin RiverwalkThese two highly successful hospitality venues in downtown San Antonio helped set the stage for the city’s resurgence.
  • Multiple senior living communities: As well known for designing inspiring and popular senior living settings as for high-demand boutique hotels, three is currently working with developers on new San Antonio-area communities, and already has several successful senior living offerings in the area for owner-operator Franklin Communities:
  • Franklin Park Stone Oak, assisted living and memory care community.
  • Franklin Park Boerne, also an assisted living and memory care community, featuring a proto-typical single-story design providing flexibility to modify units to adjust for care demands.
  • Franklin Park Alamo Heights, combining independent living, assisted living and memory care, nestled among rolling hills in San Antonio’s affluent Alamo Heights neighborhood.

Three continues to make important contributions to shaping San Antonio’s future growth and cultural fabric, with designs for new hospitality and private club venues on the boards. According to architect Rocky Berg, AIA, a principal with three and the firm’s head of business development for senior living, plans are in the works for a new continuing care community for a Dallas-based nonprofit developer and owner-operator.

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January 26th, 2023
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