Tacoland Expansion Put On Hold By HDRC
Will the new Tacoland (“One word,” says new tenant Chris Erck) plan ever get off the ground?
For the last year, the re-opening of the legendary music venue has been deemed “imminent” until someone voiced his objection about one aspect of the plans or another. In May of 2012, Historic Design Review Commission’s then-District 8 Commissioner Norman Barrera wanted to make sure the developers removed the tagging (not the graffiti art) from the property. On July 17, 2013, it was two “citizens to be heard” (Martin Kushner and Lee Joffe) who spoke up against Tacoland’s proposed addition to the building: a second-level cedar deck over the flat roof, an elevated deck surrounding the patio’s heritage oak tree, and the installation of a new, two-story structure on the northwest corner of the property composed of shipping containers.
The item in the HDRC’s consent agenda would have been routinely approved had it not been for the objections voiced by Kushner and Joffe. Kushner told the commission that parking hadn’t been an issue with the original plan, but now things have changed and more parking spaces would be needed.
“It just somehow irks me a little bit that we can change the game plan after everything was approved,” Kushner told the commission, before wishing the project good luck.
Joffe wasn’t as conciliatory as his predecessor. He said the City Council “couldn’t have cared less” about his concerns about traffic and noise, and claimed developer David Adelman told him (via email), “that is the definition of urban—get earplugs,” after Joffe cited increased noise concerns.
“I applaud everything Kushner has said,” Joffe began. “The [proposed] roof deck would ruin the harmony of this property.” His solution: a statue or a grocery store.
“What you really need here is a statue of Mr. [Ram] Ayala and maybe rename Grayson Street in his honor,” Joffe told the commission, before he suggested Adelman opens up a grocery store “on the Tacoland site and everyone can come on bicycle and foot.”
After the board meeting, Adelman had a request for Joffe.
“Do you have a copy of that email where you claimed I told you to get earplugs?” Adelman asked. “Yes, I do,” said Joffe. “Please forward it to me. Thanks. You’ve misrepresented everything I said.”
Speaking with the Current, Adelman again denied ever saying anything about earplugs (the copy of the Adelman email Joffe was carrying did have the “definition of urban” line, but no mention of earplugs).
“We’re building over 750 apartments at walking distance from Tacoland,” Adelman told the Current, stressing the fact many Tacoland patrons will come by foot. “If every establishment required a maximum amount of parking … you’d have a lot of parking lots and not a lot of development. You wouldn’t have rich urban neighborhoods. No, I didn’t say anything about earplugs, but yes, I did tell him ‘that is the definition of urban.’ That is what urban is—that you have walkability. If you want non-walkability, we generally refer to that as ‘suburban.’ And it’s very difficult to live and walk anywhere in the suburbs. So I did make that statement and I stand by it.”
Chris Erck, the new tenant who will be operating Tacoland, admitted feeling a little frustrated by another minor set back that would slow things further, but is confident things will resolve in his favor, though there is no set opening date yet.
“We’ll open in the fall,” Erck told the Current, “but it depends on a lot of different factors… that’s what comes in with building a community and we want to make sure that we’re aware of what is happening in the neighborhood and we want to take neighbors’ concerns and address those concerns. Some of them we’ll be able to address and resolve, and some we won’t. But it’s urban growth. It’s part of what San Antonio is becoming and it’s a good thing.”
The proposed new structure would allow Tacoland to use part of the patrons’ space to have its own kitchen, with the bathrooms moved above the kitchen.
“It’s better for the site to have its own kitchen rather than a food truck that comes in and out daily,” said Erck.
The commission lauded the developers’ innovative efforts in preserving the life of the oak tree in the patio area.
“We want to change the experience for the patrons and allow them to be up in the tree and interact with the tree,” Erck said. “The structure we proposed does not touch the tree. It flows within the tree limbs.”
Erck envisions “several meetings” with the commission to discuss increased traffic in the area, but he isn’t worried.
“Yes, we will have room for more patrons, and I don’t see that as a problem at all,” Erck said. “It fits the neighborhood and [the proposal] is nothing unusual.”
Musically speaking, Erck confirmed what others before him said: there will be no room for punk in the new Tacoland, except for some acoustic events. I tell him rebuilding Tacoland without punk is like rebuilding Saluté without any conjunto.
“No, I don’t agree,” said Erck. “Tacoland wasn’t exclusively punk. There were all sort of bands playing there.”
In my last two years covering Tacoland, I never heard anyone related to the project say anything about reopening “the old” Tacoland. In fact, the developers went out of their way trying to distance themselves from Ram Ayala’s venue, as if dealing with an untouchable sacred cow. This was always going to be something different, and the only common links between the old and new Tacoland were the name and the façade. Yet, Joffe suggested to the commission that the developers “sold this project as a continuation of the old Tacoland” and now, after different stages of city approvals, the developers “plan to make it bigger and draw more people.”
“We can’t replicate what Tacoland was,” said Erck. “[Tacoland] is part of what we’re making, but it is not the same. The structure [except for the façade] doesn’t even exist, but the DNA is still there. We just think everything we have proposed enhances the property and it’s a win for everyone.”
The new Tacoland will open sooner or later, but I wouldn’t bet on “the Fall” yet (heard that one before). The only thing you can bet on is that, with or without a second floor, no earplugs will be needed.