Argyle Club considering construction of historic Alamo Heights mansion

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The Argyle Club at Alamo Heights has withstood the slow march of time, generation after generation.

But today, it rocks the boat.

At least that’s the case for some residents, who fear that the planned construction on the property will create problems in the neighborhood.

Built in the 1850s as the seat of a ranch, the mansion was given a new purpose a century later: to support the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, which owns the property.

Today, the private club stands as a visible reminder of local history in the upscale enclave.

And soon it could have a one-story addition on its north side. The permanent structure would replace the tent the club sets up for gatherings in a 20-space parking lot.

“And we have a beautiful plan to do that,” said Argyle Club board member Tibaut Bowman, “with the main objective being to make sure we keep the feel and the old elegance of this old house.”

Although the Texas Historical Commission has approved the proposed design, the project is still in its early stages.

City Manager Buddy Kuhn said the city will have to review the plans, and the architectural review board and city council will have to weigh in on the project later.

Argyle Club board chairman Jeff Rochelle said he didn’t know what the timeline would be for completing the steps required by the city. But once The Argyle gets planning permission, Rochelle said he expects construction to take a year.

Although the project has the support of some local residents, others have been less receptive.

Architects Ann and Mike McGlone, who have lived on Patterson Avenue for 30 years, said events at the club at Patterson and Argyle Avenues can lead to crowded streets, among other problems.

The couple, who spoke at a recent architectural review board meeting, sought to rally opposition to the project, making street signs and sending letters to neighbors encouraging them to write the town.

“They have lawn events that last until midnight and beyond,” 67-year-old Mike McGlone said. “You can hear the music three blocks away.”

The McGlones worry that a permanent structure will make it easier to set up events, which could make them more frequent.

Indeed, Argyle executives say the goal is to make the club more efficient in organizing events. But they say adding space for indoor gatherings would mean less disruption to neighbors.

welcome to the club

The Argyle Club is looking to expand its first floor with the addition of Argyle Hall. Some renderings do not represent all of the trees on the property.

Provided by the Argyle Club

The Argyle Club is a place where members — a few of whom, Rochelle said, are collecting the $11 million tab for the proposed project — dine and hold celebrations. It also offers meeting space and a few small hotel rooms.

Each year, club members make a combined total of $1 million to $1.5 million in donations to the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, said Lisa Cruz, vice president of corporate communications for Texas Biomed. In an emailed statement, she said the donations made up about 2% of Texas Biomed’s annual operating revenue. There are currently about 1,500 members.

Over the years, there were renovations and additions to the original structure, eventually making the three-story building approximately 28,000 square feet. The site also includes an outdoor dining area and detached storage space.

The club wants to build a one-story addition to be called Argyle Hall. Its maximum height would be 29 feet and it would occupy a 20-space parking lot that the club often covers with a large tent for outdoor events.

The additional indoor event space would provide enough space for approximately 300 people, compared to the current capacity of 125 people for indoor events. It would also mean no more outdoor tent events, which Argyle chief executive Michael Vlad says can accommodate around 550 guests.

The proposed Argyle Hall comprises about 10,000 square feet of space: about 2,000 for a wine cellar, about 1,800 for renovations to the current space and about 6,500 for new construction on the first floor, the Chairman of the Argyle Club Board of Directors, Jeff Rochelle. About 4,700 square feet of new construction on the first floor could be available for events, while the rest would be filled with things like a screened porch, fire pits and restrooms. There would be two outdoor patios. And according to the notice of intent, a 1,200 square foot storage building would be added at the rear for furniture and dry goods.

Traffic

A vehicle drives along Patterson Avenue where road signs object to planned construction at the Argyle Club in Alamo Heights.

A vehicle drives along Patterson Avenue where road signs object to planned construction at the Argyle Club in Alamo Heights.

Kin Man Hui / Personal Photographer

Organizing outdoor events under a tent can be a challenge. It takes multiple vendors to come in and out to supply the tent itself as well as heating and air conditioning, a dance floor, temporary electricity and more. Rochelle said he thinks the expansion, which will eliminate the need for all that back-and-forth, will help reduce event traffic.

People who live within 200 feet of certain projects receive a notice of upcoming construction. Kuhn, the city manager, said the city has received “phone calls and other support” for the project within 200 feet of the building, in addition to several calls opposing the project from outside a radius. 200 feet.

Yellow traffic signs – courtesy of the McGlones – can be found on lawns near the club, including along Argyle and Patterson Avenues, two streets where people park for events.

Argyle Avenue resident Kyle Moe fears the project will lead to louder parties in the area.

“You have people from outside the community coming into our community to party, party and make as much noise as they want,” said Moe, 42.

Rochelle said the expansion of the structure into one of the club’s car parks would mean The Argyle would own 86 parking spaces on site and would be permitted to use around 70 more in a nearby plot. Rochelle said the club was open to a discussion with neighbors about how to resolve on-street parking issues.

And while the proposed expansion would allow for higher interior capacity, Rochelle said the space can be configured to accommodate large or small gatherings.

“So it could be smaller events,” he said. “But overall we think it will reduce the traffic burden.”

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