City pre-development filings related to utility location by an unknown applicant could point to a tower development at the site of the midcentury San Jacinto Building at 814 San Jacinto Street, a three-story office structure that first opened as a drive-thru branch of the now-defunct City National Bank in 1966. Though we have no official confirmation of a development at this location, the city utility location documents from this month indicate the planning of an unknown project at the property with an estimated two-year development timeline.
The site — which between the office structure and its adjacent parking garage to the south occupies approximately one-third of its block between East Eighth and East Ninth Streets facing east toward San Jacinto Boulevard — is unencumbered by Capitol View Corridors, and though we find the building fairly endearing, its demolition and redevelopment would likely meet with little resistance. Still, just in case something is headed here, we figured a brief look at this building’s past wouldn’t hurt.
Originally known as the City National Motor-Thru Bank, the structure’s design by legendary Austin architects Page, Southerland and Page was intended to compliment the firm’s earlier 1960s work across the street for the multi-block federal complex that includes the J.J. Pickle Federal Building and the Homer Thornberry Building.
For a former drive-through bank, it’s got a decent amount of whimsy — the psychedelic sidewalks visible at the corner in the street view above are original, and most of the facade’s character arrives from the barrel vault-like arches of its drive-thru section, though the appearance of the main structure is obviously designed as a supportive little brother to the concrete elegance of the Pickle Building.
The success of the original facility prompted a 1973 expansion also designed by Page, which added a parking garage on the south side of the original structure with additional teller stations and lanes for drive-thru banking on its ground level, doubling the site’s total capacity — big business fifty years ago, though 2020s land values haven’t fully driven the concept out of downtown.
City National Bank didn’t survive, but this facility remained functional as a drive-thru bank for years — often with its two buildings used by different operators — until around 2016, but both are now defunct and used only for parking. The recent filings suggesting development here certainly makes sense considering the structure’s small scale and lack of historic significance, but like almost every building designed by Page in this era, it has its charms. Besides, with office leases currently available with terms of several years, the San Jacinto Building could still stick around for a while.