Univision: from TV station to apartment complex

The battle to save the historic Univision KWEX-TV building ended on Tuesday, Nov. 12, when the building was demolished after Bexar County 150th District Court Judge Janet Littlejohn lifted the temporary restraining order.

The building at 411 East Cesar Chavez Boulevard was the KCOR-TV station. Built in 1955, it housed the nation’s first Spanish-language television station.

The building, formerly owned by the Univision Corporation, was sold to the Charleston-based developer Greystar after the Sept. 4 decision of the Historic and Design Review Commission that, with a 5-3 vote, denied it as a site worth historical designation.

Greystar, with plans to build a 350-unit apartment complex worth $55 million, began destruction on the old Univision building on Tuesday, Nov. 5. However, crews were stopped and barred from continuing when District Court Judge Richard Price ordered a temporary restraining order after members of the Westside Preservation Alliance filed an injunction.

The injunction came after the San Antonio Board of Adjustment ruled it had no authority to consider reversing the earlier decision by the Historic and Design Review Commission.

On Friday, Nov. 8, with the building already half torn down, Judge Price ruled that the restraining order would remain in effect Tuesday when another district court would review the case. The Westside Preservation Alliance filed on behalf of the building along with the San Antonio Conversation Society.

Members of both organizations, along with members of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center and former employees of the television station, protested the demolition of the building. Univision supported the decision of the Historic and Design Review Commission and the plans of Greystar saying that “the building itself is not what constitutes the historical relevance of Univision in San Antonio.”

On Nov. 12, with both cases from the protesting organizations consolidated, Judge Littlejohn struck down the injunction. Shortly after, demolition continued on the four-acre site, but it was not without struggle. Activists continued to protest, going as far as to block passage to the site by laying down in the street, climbing the hurricane fence and eating in front of the backhoe and rubble. The Westside Preservation Alliance was issued trespassing warnings by SAPD. Eight members from the Westside Preservation Alliance, the Esperanza Peace, Justice Center and the group Save KWEX were arrested. After the arrests were made, the demolition continued and the building was completely torn down, with only the 660-foot television tower remaining.

The members, ranging in age from 22 to 71, were released 15 hours later after the charges were dropped. The organizations do not plan on giving up on the matter, as activists are now calling for an investigation into the demolition process of not only the old KWEX-TV building but other buildings that were also denied historical preservation protection.