And those employees are working in what arguably is one of the most thoughtfully designed and technologically advanced buildings in the city, and perhaps even the state. A building where smart elevators whisk them to their destination quickly and efficiently and where natural woods blend with glass and metal to create a modern office tower both warm and welcoming.
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"If you'd have told me that we were going to deliver the first new office tower (in downtown San Antonio) in 30 years and be just about to 80 (percent) by the time we opened, I'd have taken that," Smith said during a media tour of the $140 million, 24-floor octagonal tower. "There's nothing else like this in the city."
The tour consisted of visits to the building's lobby; a mini-museum open to the public that's dedicated to Frost's history; a posh, private tenant lounge; and a quick elevator ride to the top floor — still available for lease — for a panoramic view of the downtown area and beyond.
Artifacts found during the construction of the building are displayed in the entranceway to the Cypress Lounge.
The Cypress Lounge on the mezzanine of the Frost Tower is available for use by tenants of the building.
Stairs made from wood harvested from trees felled prior to construction of the new Frost Tower Building were reipurposed in the Frost Conference Center located on the 14th and 15th floors of the building.
The building's shiny glass sheath, limned with color-changing LEDs, already has become a familiar player in the San Antonio skyline — and also has been likened to everything from a cartoon character to Queen Elsa's ice palace. Once it reaches full occupancy, the tower should house about 1,000 workers, Smith said. Of those, 650 will be Frost employees.
In addition to Frost, building tenants include, among others, the international law firm of Norton Rose Fulbright, business consultancy Ernst & Young, and Insight Global, a staffing agency and business services provider.
Now about those elevators. To get to and from their offices, workers don't punch an Up or Down button. Instead, they tap their floor number on a touch screen, which then displays which elevator will arrive quickest. No more guessing whether to stand in front of Elevator A, B or C.
But the system is also smart enough to bunch riders going to the same or nearby floors into a single car, making for fewer local stops and more express journeys, especially during the morning, lunchtime and 5 o'clock rushes.
The elevators are so efficient, in fact, Smith said, that they eliminated the need for one entire elevator shaft from the building, opening a not insignificant amount of additional space for lease.
Visitors entering the building through the street-level lobby are met with a bright, airy space with large windows overlooking the green space across North Flores Street. Sunlight is gently filtered first through a line of live oak trees spared during construction and then through horizontal wooden louvers.
"I wanted to create the idea that you are looking out into the trees through a pavilion screen," said the building's lead designer, William Butler, a San Antonio native who now is a principal at Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects in New Haven, Connecticut.
A man sits in the lobby lounge in the new Frost Tower Building downtown. The lobby houses an operating branch of Frost Bank.
The wall opposite those windows consists of mirrors covered with a stainless steel mesh that reflects the trees and adds to the light washing into the room. The same steel mesh design is also echoed in glass in the elevator banks.
The lobby houses a working Frost bank branch as well as an exhibit of vintage currency dating back to the days of the Spanish settlements in the 1500s.
Butler described the lobby's slate gray granite floor with a dusting of veining as a "rich stone carpet."
One flight up on the mezzanine, the Frost Loft contains interactive exhibits telling the bank's history from its founding in 1868 to today. Elsewhere on the same level is the Cypress Lounge, which Smith called a "gift to the tenants."
Spacious and comfortable, the lounge has a large TV area, a dining table that seats 10 and a private dining room for eight, a kitchen area with chef-quality appliances, a small catering kitchen and small private wine cellars tenants can reserve.
"Tenants can use the lounge for parties, to watch the Spurs together or to host a formal dinner," said Smith, who added that use of the lounge is free.
The entryway to the lounge has a series of small display cases containing various artifacts uncovered during the early phases of construction. These include shards of pottery, hand-blown bottles and other detritus left behind by previous inhabitants of the area.
Like the wooden louvers, natural materials appear throughout the building. Stairs between levels of the Frost Bank Conference Center, on the tower's 14th and 15th floors, as well as various benches and some of the flooring, are made of wood reclaimed from trees felled when the site was cleared.
Closer to the ground, the multi-story cast concrete garage sticks out from the building's first five stories like a great gray appendage. Smith said the developers were unable to build an underground garage because of the high cost and the fact that the water table in the area is surprisingly close to the surface.
"Subgrade parking spaces in general are not feasible in San Antonio," he said. "And we are almost halfway between the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek, so you hit water pretty quick as we found out when we drilled the piers."
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There also is 20,000 square feet of retail space running along the Houston Street side of the building. None of it is leased yet, although Smith said he hopes the stores eventually will offer a mix of price points and products and be geared to office workers as opposed to tourists.
As happy as he is with the building, Smith said he has one regret — that Tom C. Frost Jr., great-grandson of company founder Col. Thomas Claiborne "T.C." Frost, didn't live to see its completion. Frost, chairman emeritus of Cullen/Frost Bankers, the holding company for Frost Bank, died in August 2018 at age 90.
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