San Antonio’s historic Sunset Station to be renamed, renovated

Photo of Madison Iszler

The historic Sunset Station venue on the near East Side will undergo a renaming and redesign as part of local developers’ plans to revive St. Paul Square and turn the station into a hub for live music and events.

East Commerce Realty LLC — comprised of Michael Jersin and Don Thomas of CBRE and Area Real Estate executive David Adelman — has dubbed the building “The Espee.”

The train station is often referred to as “the SP” for the Southern Pacific Railroad and spelled “Espee” by train lovers, the group said in an announcement. It was one of the stops along the Sunset Limited train route that originally ran from from San Francisco to New Orleans and later Los Angeles to Orlando, Fla.

The overhaul of Sunset Station will include indoor and outdoor improvements to six areas designated for hosting concerts, shows and other events, the creation of a plaza that will accommodate up to 1,000 people and additional parking.

An outdoor pavilion will hold up to 4,500 people for shows, and the group is also developing a new entry point for concert-goers and adding more seating and a larger VIP area. A list of upcoming performances and events will be announced in the spring.

“The vision for The Espee and St. Paul Square has always been to bring this historic location back to life,” Thomas said in a statement. “We see the potential that exists here, and we are confident that promoting The Espee as a music venue will help the East Side of downtown to continue to grow and prosper.”

The cost of the renovations is unclear. The work is expected to start after the Valero Alamo Bowl and wrap up in spring 2020.

St. Paul Square, an area bounded roughly by Center and Montana streets, Interstate 37 and the railroad tracks, has been plagued by diminishing foot traffic and a glut of empty storefronts. Efforts to revitalize the neighborhood have failed in part because of few attractions, insufficient housing and parking problems.

The developers behind East Commerce Realty have been buying buildings in St. Paul Square since 2017 and injecting restaurants, bars and offices into the neighborhood to try and make it a commercial destination.

Hosting festivals and music events at Sunset Station, for which the group has the ground lease, is part of their plan. East Commerce Realty recently received City Council approval for $1.3 million from the Inner City Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Fund for public improvements.

While past revitalization efforts failed, the firm’s partners have said this time around is different because more people want to live, work and play downtown, and in the past St. Paul Square was marketed to tourists and convention-goers, not residents.

“Our downtown is transforming to a place where locals actually desire to go and be,” Adelman said recently. “We’re just hitting the timing for bringing Sunset Station and St. Paul Square into the modern era. We’ll have this place booming in no time.”