SAN ANTONIO – Efforts to preserve downtown Castroville from a wave of new development spreading westward from San Antonio seem to be paying off. More than a year ago, dozens of families with deep ties to the city began pooling funds to save the city’s character.
Multiple projects are now in development to bring new businesses to older — and in some cases shuttered — buildings in the heart of nearly 180-year-old Castroville.
One project that could catalyze redevelopment in the area is the rescue of the former Rainbow Theater, which opened in the early 1940s and has been closed for decades.
“The theater building is going to be rehabilitated and turned back into a first-run movie and live music venue,” said Josh Kempf, a founding partner in The Elsass, a group of 30-plus families working to preserve Castroville.
Other projects are in the works, including the transformation of a historic slaughterhouse structure into a new restaurant involving the owners of San Antonio’s 2M Smokehouse. A filing with the state shows the approximately $3 million project will include a renovation of the existing structure and the build-out of a new bakery and an outdoor seating area.
In addition, Cork & Screw, a wine shop and bar in Austin, plans to open a similar establishment in the former L.M. Tondre & Sons store, a building constructed before the 1920s.
I first reported in August 2021 that Kempf and his group were moving to secure key downtown assets, with plans to court entrepreneurs interested in developing new uses for older buildings that would complement Castroville’s history.
It was a plan Kempf said, “came together remarkably quickly.”
Castroville sits near the eastern edge of Medina Country, which borders western Bexar County.
“The growth has been coming fast and furious,” said Castroville Mayor Darrin Schroeder, who said city leaders are working to craft a new unified ordinance that could provide more clarity for development.
Meanwhile, Schroeder says the work Kempf and his group are doing to resurrect and protect the city’s downtown area is critically important.
“They’re not outside investors. These are people that have grown up here. Quite a few of them are from the founding families that came here in the mid-19th century,” Schroeder said. “These are the people who have already been making things happen.”
Editor’s note: This story was published through a partnership between KSAT and the San Antonio Business Journal.