Alamo Heights Approves Mid-Rise Apartments

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Broadway Ellwood's Broadway-Austin Highway development. Rendering courtesy of Overland Partners, and Dallas-based Good Fulton, and Farrell.

Broadway Ellwood's Broadway-Austin Highway development. Rendering courtesy of Overland Partners and Good Fulton and Farrell Architects.

Local property ownership group Broadway Ellwood Co. and Austin developer Argyle Residential overcame a procedural hurdle Monday night when the Alamo Heights City Council approved a special use permit (SUP) for development of an apartment complex in the center of town.

The council’s 4-1 vote upholds the City’s Planning and Zoning (P&Z) recommendations made last week and follows more than three months of lengthy public meetings and at times heated debate about the planned development at Austin Highway and Broadway.

Argyle proposes 150 apartment units with 175,000 sq. ft. of residential space, 5,100 sq. ft. of ground floor retail space, and 7,000 sq. ft. of ground floor amenity space. The building, depending on the slope of the land, would range four to five stories tall. The proposal includes 276 parking spaces, with all but 21 in an underground garage. 

The special use permit comes with several conditions, chief among them ensuring that Ellwood Avenue does not close. Acquirement and abandonment of part of Ellwood and all of Ausway Lane was a key request from Argyle and Broadway Ellwood, which owns private property that would host the project. Overland Partners is the architecture firm that designed the project.

An aerial view of the Broadway Ellwood Company property. Owner Richard Peacock also owns and operates the nearby Paloma Blanca Mexican Cuisine restaurant. Courtesy image.

An aerial view of the Broadway Ellwood Company property. Owner Richard Peacock also owns and operates the nearby Paloma Blanca Mexican Cuisine restaurant. Courtesy image.

The developers said they could realign Ellwood around the northwest part of the project site, keeping the road open but losing a bit of parking and retail space in the process.

As in past open meetings with P&Z and the City’s Architectural Review Board, which approved a preliminary design, most speakers addressed the council Monday by repeating their worries and questions about the proposal.

Concerns ranged from the building’s size and density on five public and private parcels that measure less than two acres, to concerns about potential adverse impacts on local water supply, traffic, school resources and drainage.

Critics, some of whom oppose any kind of apartment development in the municipality, have questioned the appraisal for the city’s targeted public properties. They also have questioned whether the mixed-use development could spark a rebirth of sorts along Alamo Heights’ commercial corridor on Broadway, as many others hope will happen. The council agreed to accept $20 per square foot as the price for abandoning all five parcels for the project.

Glenn Huddleston explains his green space proposal to the Alamo Heights City Council and the audience on Monday. Photo by Edmond Ortiz

Glenn Huddleston explains his green space proposal to the Alamo Heights City Council and the audience in February 2015. Photo by Edmond Ortiz.

Local developer and property owner Glenn Huddleston made a counter-proposal of sorts several months ago to convert the land into a small city park, an idea that did not win council support.

John Burnham, managing director of Argyle, said the new ownership group could maintain one of the targeted parcels, a triangular patch south of Ausway Lane, as greenspace for years as part of the project.

Project supporters say the development would help to improve the aesthetics and economic viability of the Broadway commercial corridor, provide the city with a new revenue stream, and upgrade walkability in the area. Councilmember Bobby Hasslocher cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he still had many unresolved questions about the plan.

This isn’t quite a done deal. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and San Antonio River Authority (SARA) must first determine whether the project will have any significant impact on the floodplain around Austin Highway/Broadway. That process, project representatives said, could take months.

Sam Dawson of local firm Pape-Dawson Engineers, which consulted with Argyle and its partners, said in his professional opinion the plan meets the city’s requirements regarding drainage runoff and impervious cover.

Richard Peacock, one of the four local men who own land that would accommodate Argyle’s development, expressed gratitude and relief that the SUP was granted.

Broadway Ellwood Group Principal Richard Peacock Jr.

Broadway Ellwood Group Principal Richard Peacock Jr.

“Unfortunately at the same time it was not without controversy, but I think at the end of the day, with the Architectural Review Board passing it unanimously, and Planning and Zoning passing it unanimously, and the council passing it 4-1 makes me think that facts prevailed,” Peacock said. He acknowledged there’s still much to do before breaking ground at the project site.

“The basic framework for our development has been endorsed and ratified after being thoroughly vetted. It’s probably the most vetted project in our city’s history, which is probably appropriate for something this significant.”

Councilmember Lynda Billa Burke said Argyle’s plan warranted such study and that she concluded it offers much in the way of positive community potential.

“It’s a model project, a unique project. There will be never another one like it because of the spot it’s in,” Burke said. “But it presents what Alamo Heights needs to do: grow up and move on.”

Burnham said he and his associates appreciate the variety of opinions offered about the project. “Ultimately, I’m glad we’re able to take the next step forward with this project.”

Alamo Heights mayoral candidate and project opponent Sarah Reveley said she was disappointed, “the council ignored the concern about mass and height.”

*Featured/top image: Broadway Ellwood’s Broadway-Austin Highway development. Rendering courtesy of Overland Partners and Good Fulton and Farrell Architects.

Related Stories:

Pocket Park in Alamo Heights Gaining Traction

Alamo Heights Turning Point: Progress or Pocket Park?

A New Proposal for Broadway-Austin Highway Development

Alamo Heights Vote All About Broadway Corridor

Alamo Heights Says No to Proposed Development Project

20 thoughts on “Alamo Heights Approves Mid-Rise Apartments

  1. Increasing density and providing a mixed use development that will contribute towards making that stretch of Broadway even more walkable is a plus.

  2. Alamo heights is very well setup to walk and bike to places, and I often wonder why people don’t do that there. Beats me.

  3. Pleased to see a nicely scaled, timelessly good-looking urban project. If the rendering is accurate, it will be 10x more tasteful than any of the ill-proportioned beige/brown disasters along the south end of Broadway. Alamo Heights might’ve gotten this just right.

  4. Glad to hear this is going forward. I’ve been totally baffled by all the opposition to this project, when it will hardly add any new vehicle traffic and will look infinitely better than what was there before.
    Developments like these are exactly what our communities need–not some fear mongering about looming high-rises, traffic catastrophes, and crime nightmares. If you fear change, don’t use exaggeration to get others on board with you. It is simply unproductive, and frankly does more harm than good.

  5. No highrise? ……well its not a highrise and it’s compatible in scale and design (thanks to ARB)….next project should be treatment/landscaping/drainage mitigation of medians and very, very pedestrian improvements to sidewalks/intersection……oppositioners….make it lemonade.!

  6. Thank you, Edmond! You know our community well enough to understand both sides. I feel so strongly about codifying the NEGLECTED Comprehensive Plan that I agreed to the 4 story if the other issues were worked out. When I saw the elevations and realized it was actually 5 stories on Austin highway, and parts of Broadway, I was stunned, and disappointed. The press still refers to it as a 4 story. A complicated code regarding land grade based on elevation averaging allows them to have 5 stories when 4 stories is allowed. They have protested my comments about it really being 5 stories. The lack of transparency by the city on this fact is disturbing.

    • Correction to my comment: It is also 5 stories on Ellwood when it turns south to Austin Highway, and a portion of Ellwood in front of the condos at Brighton. The compromise last year for Alamo Manhattan was 3 stories in front of Brighton and 4 stories on Austin Highway, why did Council now decide 5 stories was acceptable?

  7. Is this 5 story building a high-rise or a mid-rise? The best answer I have seen is at http://www.houstonarchitecture.com/haif/topic/4632-how-do-you-define-a-low-rise-high-rise-etc/ . The administrator said: “Officially, a skyscraper is at least six stories tall with a steel frame and elevators, which pretty much describes the world’s first skyscraper, built in Chicago. But many consider that definition out of date. In my opinion, it varies with geography. In Oshkosh, Wisconsin six stories would still be a skyscraper. In New York it’s an afterthought.”
    I looked it up. Oshkosh has a population of 66,000 with 26,000 homes. Go read the entire article, it’s very entertaining. Somebody else said: “I still cannot find a definition for “mid-rise” in the International Codes or NFPA. Different jurisdictions and property managers define mid-rise, well, differently. As far as I’m concerned, until NFPA or ICC defines the term “mid-rise”, I will continue to think that those insistent on using this term are referring to their undergarments.”

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