Developer Omar Gonzalez moves from Hemisfair to Pearl culture

For more than a decade, Omar Gonzalez has lived, worked and played at Hemisfair, the park project he helped develop and the home of Yanaguana Garden where his children love to run and climb.

In January, he moved the professional part of his life to the Pearl – to a job that will in due course bring him back to the park and the Lavaca neighborhood where he lives.

Appointed director of development for Pearl’s real estate development arm, Pearl Build, Gonzalez leads a team of people helping shape new projects beyond the thriving mixed-use development and culinary destination near Broadway Street.

One of these new projects involves working on a much-anticipated plan for the 5-acre property and historic buildings that Pearl owner Silver Ventures purchased near his former workplace in Hemisfair in 2018.

Planning for this development is in the early stages as Gonzalez focuses even more on an effort near the Pearl with game-changing potential.

Mobilization and transformation

Pearl Build is one of three entities under the Silver Ventures umbrella, which also includes Pearl Commercial which oversees the food, drink and entertainment elements of the development and Pearl Real Estate which owns and owns the former brewery.

Bill Shown, CEO of Pearl Build, hired Gonzalez from the position of Chief Development Officer at Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation, where Shown said he demonstrated his “ability and experience in community engagement and transformation.” .

“He’s known and respected and thinks strategically and outside the box,” Shown said. “He will be a great creative partner and leader.”

The time was right for his transition to the Pearl, Gonzalez said.

“I was really happy that I was able to stay long enough to keep [Hemisfair] moving,” he said. But the opportunity at the Pearl, to build on his past successes, was one he couldn’t pass up.

“We kind of have the freedom now to see if we can continue to create magic like we created here. [at the Pearl]capture the soul of a place and the soul of a community and then see if we can replicate that in other places,” he said.

The Pearl plans to renovate the former headquarters of Samuels Glass Company into a marketplace. Credit: Nick Wagner/San Antonio Report

“Something concrete”

Gonzalez grew up in northwest San Antonio and attended Central Catholic High School on North St. Mary’s Street, the place where he said he first “did in to the whole notion of urban.” .

After attending the University of Pennsylvania to study business at the Wharton School, Gonzalez returned to San Antonio and held several consulting positions before realizing he no longer wanted to be on the sidelines of development. “I wanted to be on the ‘do’ side,” he said. “I wanted to create something tangible.”

He earned a master’s degree in business administration from Stanford University and went to work for a real estate company managing single-family residential developments in California. From there, he developed resort properties for a group of investors in Riviera Maya, Mexico. But the 2007-08 financial crisis changed everything.

“It was kind of a mess, and therefore for me a great learning experience,” Gonzalez said. “The more I thought about it, the more I knew San Antonio was where I needed to be. I really wanted to be back home.

In San Antonio, the Pearl Brewery redevelopment project was just beginning. Looking for his next job, Gonzalez met everyone, including Shown, who introduced him to Andres Andujar, CEO of Hemisfair.

During his 11 years at Hemisfair, Gonzalez brought Yanaguana Garden and the park’s historic buildings to life and also worked on the 68 residential tower project. For the past two years, he led the San Antonio of the Urban Land Institute as chairman of the district council.

“His impact is visible in all of our successes to date,” Andujar said. “His optimism and love for San Antonio and Hemisfair reverberates through the neighborhood.”

The ambitious Hemisfair project entered its second phase of redevelopment in January with the inauguration of Civic Park – sans Gonzalez. Hemisfair recently appointed Melissa Chamrad as Director of Finance and Real Estate for Hemisfair.

Growing up with Tobin Hill

Hemisfair not only represents what Gonzalez considers the best type of “human scale” and walkable urban development, but it also sits in its own backyard.

And as a resident of the Lavaca neighborhood, where he lives in a townhouse near Labor Street Park, Gonzalez, who is 46 and married with two children, said he’s tuned in perfectly. of how his new employer is developing the land that Silver Ventures also owns just to the south. of Hemisfair.

A design statement for the the former school district property on César E. Chávez Boulevard and South Alamo Street is complete. But there is still a lot of work to do.

“So that means things are going to start to heat up a bit,” Gonzalez said, with the developer planning to involve neighbors in the process soon. “I don’t have a specific deadline [but] it’s something I think about on a daily basis. I walk past the property and can’t wait to get my hands on it.

The property will be sold to SAISD's Silver Ventures.
The former headquarters of the San Antonio Independent School District, now owned by Silver Ventures, is to be redeveloped. Credit: Scott Ball/San Antonio Report

But first, he and the Pearl Build group are focusing on projects closer to the Pearl mothership just off booming Broadway, starting with the seven-story apartment tower at Elmira and Quincy streets. Construction on this project begins this spring.

This resort is just one of many that stretch west of the San Antonio River in the Tobin Hill Historic District.

Sabot Development, an Austin-based commercial real estate company, is building a 10-story mixed-use tower bordered by Euclid, Myrtle, Elmira and Locust streets. The Lynd Company partners with the San Antonio Housing Authority on a 259-unit complex at 120 W. Josephine St.

And AREA Real Estate chairman David Adelman and real estate investment firm Embrey are nearing completion of the Tin Top, an apartment block in the Creamery development in East Ashby.

Residents of Tobin Hill are feeling the pressure of expanding development in their neighborhood, drawn in large measure by the lure of the Pearl, bringing with it more people and traffic. Gonzalez thinks design and development in San Antonio can be less car-centric than before and more focused on human interaction.

“I think the more people we can get to live in these areas, the more likely we are to support and fully support this idea of ​​having places where people can congregate, where people can eat, where people can celebrate. “, did he declare.

Seat space

Another project on Gonzalez’s plate is one that he is passionate about for the impact it will have on the Pearl and the city.

“When I got here, my reaction was that enough people didn’t know that because I think it’s potentially a game-changer,” he said.

The goal of an industrial site along the river bordered by Josephine and Isleta streets that is currently fenced off and unused is “to attract a Fortune 500 seat to this site,” he said.

A head office tenant would bring good jobs and contribute to the economic development of the whole city while providing workers with proximity to all that the Pearl has to offer. “I think the potential to do something really amazing there is high,” he said.

Gonzalez also called the workload arduous. But given what the Pearl has already accomplished — changing the culinary landscape and the way many experience food in San Antonio — he’s confident it will happen.

“What I love about working here is that they make the impossible possible,” Gonzalez said.

While that project may be part of the distant future, Gonzalez’s arrival at the Pearl comes as Pearl Commercial is redeveloping Samuel’s former glass factory on Newell Avenue into a marketplace and preparing to announce what will come next. of the former Pearl Stables event space on March 15. Pearl Real Estate is developing what it calls 1100 Springs Park, a green space in front of the Full Goods Building.

Gonzalez said he was fortunate to be involved in so many meaningful projects in San Antonio. “I look back and think, ‘All this happened to me? “, Did he declare.