San Antonio, TX: Courting Food Trucks for Wolfson

By Benjamin Olivo | Express-News

The Wolfson Building, built in 1880, was destroyed by a fire in October 2011. The property must be rezoned before any food truck court plans can proceed.

A year since a fire left the 1800s Wolfson building at Main Avenue and Commerce Street in ruins, plans for the property’s temporary use may be finalized soon.

The vision is for the 16,870-square-foot parcel of land just north of Main Plaza to be converted into a food truck court — similar to the Alamo Street Eat Bar in Southtown or Boardwalk on Bulverde on the North Side — complete with seating, shade, parking and (maybe) restrooms, depending if owner Paul Carter plans to sell alcohol there.

Carter admits he’s ambivalent about footing the bill for the food truck court. He anticipates losing money on the deal, but he would like to see the corner spot be more than a blot on the landscape.

“We just need to get something moving on the property,” Carter said. “My mission is to not have weeds there. … I’m not benefiting from this. I just don’t want it to look like an embarrassing eyesore.”

Carter said the city has agreed to waive any related fees to expedite the process.

Before plans can proceed, the property must be rezoned. In late September, the Zoning Commission pushed through its recommendation to allow a food truck court, and the City Council is expected to rule on the change Nov. 1.

The plan has raised minor opposition.

According to the minutes from the zoning meeting, lawyer George Carson spoke in opposition of the food truck court on behalf of Larry Karam, co-owner of nearby Mexican Manhattan. Karam is out of the country and was not available for comment.

The court is the city’s second attempt at grasping the coattails of the local food truck trend.

In May, the city began a pilot program in which food trucks were allowed to park in designated areas considered public right-of-ways, including Main Plaza.

Mark Brodeur, former director of the Center City Development Office, initiated talks with Carter last spring. His feeling: The more food trucks around Main Plaza, the better.

“By bringing mobile food around Main Plaza, as a consumer, that’s awesome,” said Brodeur, who is now head of the city’s newly formed CityDesignStudio team. “I can go to Mexican Manhattan. I can go to Bill Miller‘s. I can go to Poblanos. Now, the amount of food variety within 300 to 400 feet is incredible. I think that will actually improve business for all of the brick-and-mortars.”

Carter has not decided what to do with the property in the long term. He and the city chipped in for Alamo Architects to draw permanent plans for the site.

Carter prefers to build about seven Brownstone-style homes with a corner coffee shop in the historic style of the Wolfson building. But other options include a mixed-use building and an office high-rise.

“We are in the process with meeting with interested parties to develop the property,” Carter said.

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