Legacy of innovation

When the Brooks Development Authority inherited the closed Brooks Air Force Base, with it came dozens of shuttered buildings and more than 1,000 acres of land. These buildings hold immense significance as the former home of groundbreaking medical discoveries when Brooks was home to the Air Force’s School of Aerospace Medicine. Monumental developments were made, including the invention of the MRI machine and Lasik surgery.

With the knowledge of these past legacies in mind, Brooks goes to great lengths to preserve the vacated buildings and readapt them for a new purpose. As a catalyst of economic development on the South Side, Brooks has many opportunities to preserve the history of these buildings with new businesses, restaurants, shops, offices, medical facilities, and anything else our tenants can imagine.

The most anticipated developments at Brooks have an important connection to the past

Progress with an eye on history

Among the exciting developments happening at Brooks in 2020, the brand-new Southerleigh Coast & Comfort and Southerleigh Brewing Co. are easily the most anticipated city-wide. The stunning facilities, designed by Gomez Vazquez International (GVI), will include an adaptation of an existing building and activation of vacant land from Brooks’ monumental days as an Air Force base.

Southerleigh Coast & Comfort, the second of Jeff Balfour’s popular Gulf Coast-inspired restaurant will be on the banks of The Greenline using the former Air Force Officers Club building. The focal point of the site is a large, gorgeous heritage tree — a sprawling outdoor deck will surround it, providing an open-air feel with views of the picturesque park.

The brewery will be located down the road from the restaurant on the site of the former Air Force chapel. Southerleigh Brewing Co. will be part of a larger live, work, play complex that combines the chapel with a blend of contemporary and container design. Retail, offices, restaurants, and coffee shops are slated to fill in around the chapel, creating a culinary and recreational destination unlike anything on the South Side.

“Everything will be around the chapel,” said Alvaro Guerra-Gonzalez Gomez, Principal at GVI. “We are using the chapel as an anchor for the project and the entire complex will be a friendly place to walk.”

Bringing nature indoors

You wouldn’t expect to hear this from an architect, but the purpose for GVI’s design is to get people outdoors. By integrating the facilities with the surrounding nature, it invites people to get out and enjoy the outdoors, something that’s easy to do in San Antonio with more than 200 sunny days per year. “The more contact you have with nature, the more you understand a little more about life,” said Alvaro. “Everyone is so busy and we don’t get to the important things — like being outside.”

Even on rainy days, Alvaro hopes visitors will still enjoy the connection to nature. As the seasons change, the environment smells different and you can observe how the landscape changes, he explained.

Brooks is ideal for the type of developments that GVI has designed. As a mixed-use campus where anyone can live, work, learn, play, or stay, Brooks is uniquely primed for that small town feel. Alvaro and his team have imagined a destination where people can walk from their homes or stop by after work and connect with their community.

“We are always thinking about the environment and finding ways to trigger good moods,” he said. “We as designers strive to improve people’s lives.”

Brooks’ past meets its future

In a historic setting like that of a former Air Force base, new construction takes on a whole new significance. When Brooks Air Force Base closed, numerous buildings remained empty. These buildings provide unlimited opportunity for developers to take advantage of the existing facilities, while preserving history in new and unique ways.

All of the Air Force facilities were built with a purpose in mind. The GVI team has worked hard to honor the history of the base and the military personnel that were here for almost 100 years.

“There were a lot of people really committed to the base. You can feel it. It’s different here,” Alvaro said.

The way Alvaro sees it: adapting old buildings means getting to know that building as something with history and scars.

“We all have different backgrounds, and in order to know someone, we have to know that story,” he said. “I like to see historic buildings as a really old, big tree. It was here before we arrived, so we need to respect and honor it.”

Be part of history

Learn more

Whether it’s providing a gorgeous wedding venue for South Side couples with Hangar 9 or bringing the city together at the new Southerleigh Coast & Comfort, developers are taking advantage of adaptive use opportunities at Brooks. Find out how historic buildings from the former Air Force Base are being given new purpose.