When Graham Weston bought a 32-story office tower on the West Side of downtown San Antonio in 1992 (and renamed it Weston Centre), the then 27-year-old entrepreneur never imagined that it would be the first piece of a sweeping transformation he’d lead in one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities. Nearly two and a half decades later, Weston, who grew up on a ranch near New Braunfels, is a billionaire cofounder of the San Antonio cloud computing company Rackspace. And the blocks surrounding Weston Centre form the heart of a thriving new tech district that his real-estate development company, Weston Urban, has stitched together by renovating multiple buildings and erecting new ones (including downtown’s first new office high-rise in 25 years). Then there are Weston’s philanthropic donations, such as a recent one to help fund a “massive expansion” of UTSA’s downtown campus. We mapped out a few key pieces of Weston’s downtown reinvention.
CAST Tech High School
In 2016 Weston joined H-E-B in helping to fund the creation of a new tech-focused magnet school downtown. Opened in 2017, the campus is the first in what the San Antonio Independent School District intends to become a citywide network called the Centers for Applied Science and Technology. Plans for two more centers are already under way on the city’s South Side.
San Pedro Creek
The creek runs through the new tech district, and as the city has worked to transform it into a smaller version of the River Walk, Weston has been buying nearby land with the purpose of building a mixed-use development. “We’re at the very beginning of the evolution of how the creek will influence downtown,” he says.
Opened in 1928, the 21-story building was the nation’s first air-conditioned high-rise. Weston snapped it up in 2017, and it’s currently under renovation.
The three-story nineteenth-century building, purchased by Weston Urban in 2016 and fully renovated, is now “one-hundred-percent tech-focused,” Weston says.
Frost Bank Tower
The first new office high-rise in downtown San Antonio in a quarter century, the glassy and angular 23-story tower, developed by Weston Urban, is expected to open next summer.
The Rand Building
Roughly half of this structure is occupied by Geekdom, a tech-focused coworking space and start-up incubator that Weston launched in 2011. “Before Geekdom, there were a handful of tech companies scattered across the city, but there was no place the industry was concentrated, no place for like-minded people to connect,” he says. Google Fiber also has its San Antonio headquarters in the building, along with a Rackspace-owned tech education center called the Open Cloud Academy and multiple restaurants.
“This is the biggest thing to happen to downtown San Antonio in fifty years,” Weston says. His recent $15 million donation was the largest private gift the university has ever received and is part of a $200 million public-private investment aimed at more than doubling the number of students attending the downtown campus. Among other things, the expansion will establish a new school of data science—which will, of course, feed more tech workers into the area. “I can’t wait to see all those backpacks.”
This article originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Reinventing Downtown San Antonio.” Subscribe today.