In July, the H. E. Butt Foundation will begin construction of a new office and convening complex on West Sunset Road, just a few miles north of downtown San Antonio.
The new collection of buildings, set to open in October 2021, will provide offices for local employees as well as gathering spaces for partner organizations. It will also serve as home base for the Foundation’s community engagement program, which merges several strategies aimed at building healthy families and children.
“We are excited about this building project for many reasons,” said David Rogers, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “We’re building a complex that provides work space, convening and collaborating space, and a touch of the Frio River Canyon.”
For decades, the main work of the H. E. Butt Foundation has happened on a 1900-acre ranch at the headwaters of the Frio River. Five campsites and an adult retreat center host nearly 30,000 people each year: students staying overnight for Outdoor School, churches and nonprofit organizations hosting annual retreats at Foundation Camp, guests at Family Camp and Youth Camp, and adults seeking the contemplative space of Laity Lodge.
As the Foundation expanded its community engagement work in recent years—which includes initiatives in both San Antonio and Real County—Rogers wanted to create something more than just another office in a different city.
In 2018, Deborah Rogers, a member of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, came upon the Sunset property with her husband when it still held several dormant houses that had once been the site of Horse of a Different Color Antiques. Created by Fred J. Pottinger and Tom Messer, the shop was an iconic expression of early twentieth-century Texas design and was featured in many publications, including Architectural Digest.
The property, which has been sitting mostly vacant for twenty years, had lost much of its former glory. The previous owner, Emily Dial, said she was excited to sell to the H. E. Butt Foundation because of their vision for stewarding the property.
The Foundation is working with Jonathan R. Card AIA LEED ap of Card and Company Architects. He designed numerous projects at the Historic Pearl Brewery including Cured and Jazz, TX. Having been a guest at Laity Lodge Family Camp several times, Card knows firsthand the Foundation’s unique approach to hospitality. He hopes the Sunset campus will offer a taste of that outdoor setting while serving as an urban workspace.
“We are doing everything we can to salvage pieces, reuse pieces delicately, and repurpose everything we can.”David Rogers
“There is a wonderful agave courtyard with rock walls full of cactus, palms, and all sorts of great plant material,” Card said, noting that several features of the site will be retained–older pecan and oak trees, rock walls and other design features. Nearly 300 trees and 175 plants were retained for the landscape design, which is being handled by Sarah Carr of Word + Carr Design Group of Austin.
“We are part of this community,” said David Rogers. “We recognize there are vast differences in opportunity between people here who are separated by just one zipcode. This campus will be a place to help all of our partners in San Antonio support our neighbors. We believe the city can be made more whole, and we want to help out.”