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City Leaders Hope USAA Move Sparks Additional Downtown Momentum

Downtown street signs direct tourists and visitors to landmarks and other destinations around downtown San Antonio.
Ryan Loyd
TPR News
City leaders are hoping that other companies take a cue from USAA and look at using downtown spaces.

As Texas Public Radio reported to you last month, San Antonio's downtown building vacancy rate is at 29 percent. Now that USAA has announced plans to locate some of its employees in a building downtown, city leaders hope more will follow.

The insurance company announced that 150 workers will report to One Riverwalk Place on the northeast corner of North St. Mary's and Convent in September. They'll occupy only a few floors of the tower bought by USAA Real Estate Company last year.

District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg praised the score for downtown.

"USAA needs space because they're growing as a company," he said. "Their largest headquarters is here in San Antonio. We'd like to see those jobs stay in San Antonio, rather than go to another city or another state. So to an extent that we can help them find locations here in San Antonio, and help us with our overall goals as a city, I think it's a win on every measure."

In January the city-wide building vacancy rate was at 19 percent, which is why Centro San Antonio CEO Pat DiGiovanni has been working to reduce those numbers.

He said sprawl slowly took businesses away from the city center.

"We are a very thriving community in many ways. We're growing," DiGiovanni said. "We are also spread out and a lot of our office market if you will has gone outside the central business district over a period of time."

Sunday, DiGiovanni said that while he didn't work directly with USAA to make this happen, he's delighted to hear the news that the company is making a commitment to downtown.

USAA, he said, sees downtown in its future and recognizes, like a lot of companies, that younger people want to be a part of a downtown environment. They are making a strategic move in that direction, and that's significant, he said.

Although 150 employees doesn't sound like a lot, Nirenberg hinted it may be the beginning of another revival.

"You know, any vacancy is too high when there's revenue to be gained for our city and our citizens," said Nirenberg.

He believes the city is doing everything it can to lower the vacancy rate, which, he said, is good for everyone.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.