SAN ANTONIO — Stanley Marcus, the visionary retailer, visited this city about 35 years ago to scout for a store location. His conclusion: It wasn’t Neiman Marcus territory.

Times have changed.

San Antonio, the second fastest-growing major U.S. city after Phoenix, is emerging as a retail center that generated a total of $7.2 billion in revenue last year compared with $4 billion in 1992, according to San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau statistics.

Neiman Marcus and other retailers have taken notice. The high-end chain will open its first store here next September at The Shops at La Cantera, a 1.3 million-square-foot open-air center being built by Rouse Co. that also will be anchored by Dillard’s, Foley’s and San Antonio’s first Nordstrom.

“San Antonio is really a city that took its time getting through the 20th century, but it is going to hit the ground running in the 21st century,” said Travis Tullos, a partner in Texas Perspectives, an economic research firm based in Austin, Tex. “We’re on the radar screen in a way that we weren’t 10 or 12 years ago.”

While The Shops at La Cantera is in the city’s northern tier, a growing white-collar residential community, developers also are trying to revitalize the downtown business district, which has about an 80 percent occupancy rate for both office and retail space on the streets near the River Walk promenade. They have renovated several properties on Houston Street, where the slick Hotel Valencia Riverwalk opened last year with most of the facade of the 1922 high-rise intact and a transformed interior featuring waterfalls and mood lighting. The new contemporary Tex-Mex restaurant Acenar is next door.

Several condominium and apartment projects are under construction or planned, including the conversion of the Frost Brothers department store into 45 luxury condos to open late this year, and 250 apartments are being built at the north end of downtown, said Ben Brewer, president of Downtown Alliance, a consortium of firms advocating development.

“We’re looking at soft goods retailing coming up next downtown, because there is more of a movement to downtown living,” said Mona Lowe, president of Reata Property Management, which oversees buildings on Houston Street as well as the suburban Alamo Quarry Market and Alamo Crossing shopping centers.

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