Olmos Park ‘Garden Homes’ to Replace Aging Apartments

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Exterior image of a future garden home in Olmos Park. Courtesy image.

Exterior image of a future garden home in Olmos Park. Courtesy image.

An increasing number of real estate professionals and market watchers see the surge of infill-based development in San Antonio’s urban core as the dawning of a new day of steady, smart, sustainable growth for residential and commercial opportunities in and around the center city.

Dan Mitchell, executive vice president of the local Weitzman Group, recently stated in an article that he believes infill development will only grow this year since businesses are establishing themselves in proven population and commercial sectors instead of only newly built areas.

Will Balthrope of Institutional Property Advisors echoed Mitchell’s optimism about infill development in a separate article in January following the sale of 1800 Broadway, the luxury apartment complex near Pearl.

“Compared to other Texas urban infill sub-markets, the lower Broadway corridor is in the infancy of its growth,” Balthrope wrote. “The area is emerging as a location of great interest to renters and investors, much as Uptown Dallas and Galleria Houston evolved.”

Now, developers such as Austin’s PSW Real Estate have recognized and are taking advantage of such opportunities in San Antonio, specifically in higher-end communities north and south of downtown.

A floor plan of the 26 garden homes on East Olmos Drive. Courtesy image.

A floor plan of the 26 garden homes on East Olmos Drive. Courtesy image.

PSW Real Estate, a specialist in infill development and sustainable communities, opened a local office on Austin Highway in Alamo Heights, where Robyn Mattinen is the company’s lead San Antonio-area sales representative. Mattinen is currently working with two other full-time people locally, but as PSW’s founding co-partner Anthony Siela puts it, there is potential to grow.

Siela and Ryan Diepenbrock founded PSW Real Estate in the mid-2000s. The firm has since developed more than 10 communities between Austin and the Dallas/Fort Worth market.

In each community, PSW has emphasized developing urban housing in places where modern construction and density can combine to benefit the surrounding community.

The first spot where PSW seeks to make a positive impact in San Antonio is inside the near-Northside municipality of  Olmos Park, where the firm is in the first of a two-phase project to develop 26 upscale garden homes on stately East Olmos Drive. The homes will sit where older apartment complexes had been located. Demolition is completed on the first property where the initial 17 fee-simple homes will be built. Fee-simple means the buyers will own their properties outright and not be subject to shared ownership arrangements.

PSW plans to close later this summer on an adjacent tract in the 400 block of East Olmos Drive, to build nine more garden homes. The homes will measure 1,800-2,400 sq. ft. Each townhome will be priced between $500-700,000, Siela said. He added that foundations for the first phase of homes should be going in soon.

“We’re excited. We think it’s going to be a great addition to the community,” Siela said. “Building two to three homes a month, that’s our expectation here.”

According to Siela, Olmos Park is an ideal place for PSW to make its mark locally, applying the company’s sustainable principles – urban density, water and energy conservation, green building techniques – appropriately in an area that holds much potential in a wider booming housing market.

“But we don’t include green features just for the sake of marketing. We include them where they make sense,” Siela added.

PSW’s entrance into Olmos Park was not all that smooth. Some city officials and residents initially expressed concern last year about the compatibility of the company’s proposed garden home development with the surrounding neighborhood. PSW made modifications to reach a middle ground with Olmos Park leaders.

There was a consensus that the existing multi-family units on East Olmos Drive, already vacant, had long since passed any point of adding value to the community.

“Those apartments were no longer a benefit to Olmos Park or to the residents who had lived there,” he added.

PSW Real Estate will break ground within the next year on a small infill development on Terrell Road in Alamo Heights. Photo by Edmond Ortiz

PSW Real Estate will break ground within the next year on a small infill development on Terrell Road in Alamo Heights. Photo by Edmond Ortiz

After additional public discussion, city leaders including Councilmember Enzo Pellegrino supported PSW’s project as an appropriate redevelopment of a prime real estate location. PSW adopted suggested changes to its parking designs and in the selection of exterior materials to be used on the townhomes.

“The PSW project has afforded Olmos Park an opportunity to turn one of our most rundown areas into a safer, more family friendly environment which is better aligned with the character of our great city,” Pellegrino wrote in an email to residents last summer. This was outlined in a San Antonio Express-News report after the council approved PSW’s replat.

PSW representatives went to the Olmos Park Council’s regularly scheduled March meeting to update residents about how the developer was following conditions in an approved special use permit for the East Olmos Drive property. Those conditions affect the plat and lot characteristics as well as architectural and aesthetic characteristics.

An overall sketch of the Olmos Park garden homes. Courtesy image.

A sketch of the Olmos Park garden homes. Courtesy image.

“The city of Olmos Park approved the PSW project on Olmos Drive several months ago through a special-use permit, which stipulated a number of specific architectural and land use requirements,” Mayor Kenneth Farrimond said afterwards.

“To date, rather early in the process, we have found PSW to be fully cooperative and easy to work with. They have so far fulfilled all requirements and submitted all plans which we requested. We are expecting that the good relationship we have with the company will continue as we move along.”

Siela said another selling point for PSW is that it tries to foresee potential homebuyers’ variety of desired amenities and options in a new home and offer them upfront. That way, he added, a home buyer is not inundated with options later in the home-buying process. The company also internalized many services that are typically outsourced to other companies by other developers, from architectural design and engineering to construction.

“We want to minimize the burden of owning a home, and maximize the overall experience,” he added.

Interior image of the future garden homes. Courtesy image.

Interior image of the future garden homes. Courtesy image.

PSW continues to enter what Siela calls highly-desirable neighborhoods in San Antonio’s central core, with plans to develop homes in Southtown and Alamo Heights.

“Our goal is to bring more families into the city, help them realize what it’s like to live in these neighborhoods,” Siela said.

In the grand scheme of things, PSW and similar developers hope to bolster the profile of homebuilders that are adding to quality infill development across the San Antonio area. According to an Environmental Protection Agency report released in 2012, about 16% of more than 134,000 homes built in the San Antonio-New Braunfels metropolitan area between 2000 and 2009 replaced previously developed parts. The report also stated that, nationwide, residential infill topped one-fifth of all new home building.

EPA officials in the report stressed the positives of infill development, including that such development “can also provide significant environmental benefits when compared with conventional suburban development. Developing more compactly in a location surrounded by existing development means that residents can drive less if they choose, reducing air pollution, and that less paved surface is needed for roads and parking lots, reducing the amount of polluted stormwater runoff flowing into waterways.”

“San Antonio is a great, well-diversified city from an economic perspective. It’s going to be that way for the long-term,” Siela said.

 

*Featured/top-image: Exterior image of a future garden home in Olmos Park. Courtesy image.  

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San Antonio, Under Construction: We’re Not Slowing Down

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20 thoughts on “Olmos Park ‘Garden Homes’ to Replace Aging Apartments

  1. ““Those apartments were no longer a benefit to Olmos Park or to the residents who had lived there,” he added.”

    Sooo basically, they didn’t like that affordable housing was in their affluent neighborhood. And it was an “eyesore”. Great.

  2. good to see the rendering of what is coming there. very respectful to the scale of neighborhood, hats off to the design team

  3. These homes will be between $500,000 and $700,000! Clearly these are not going to be affordable to most families in San Antonio, especially young professionals!

    • With respect, why would one expect them to be affordable to the general public? They’re located in one of the most upscale neighborhoods in the city. High-end locations have high-end price tags.

  4. This is well out of my price range. Shame, too, those homes are pretty cute and I like the idea behind them.

  5. How can they “no longer be a benefit to Olmos Park or the residents that have lived there,” when I currently live there?

  6. The existing apartments have always been well maintained. I suppose Olmos Park residents believe that they do not meet their standards for living. Where they should focus on in-fill is just north of Hildebrand between McCullough & Shook……there are itty bitty older homes….not much to look at…..unfortunately, if they go that route, it’ll be gentrification, big time……those homes are very inexpensive.

  7. The artist’s rendering for E Olmos Dr is not even close to what PSW will be erecting in my opinion. To me the scale of the homes in the drawing looks far bigger and taller – the pictured houses look closer to the sizes of the old apartments (4 plexes). The roof tops look more like Spanish tile but in reality the actual ones are going to be nasty asphalt shingle type. The reason for this, made by PSW, is that noone would be able to tell from the vantage point of a person standing on the ground below. Also the drawing doesn’t show a single roof top with solar panels. The square footage necessary for solar panels to be cost effective … where is it? The drawing of the interior space for one of the houses is just another thing that looks off. Look at the space and see if it really looks like a comfortable place to live…the gigantic table? It only has seating on one side which makes me think it is in the kitchen maybe but notice how narrow the house must be. Narrow, ugly, and not stately. What is that door for? It is unbearably close to the giant table. Is that another table toward the back with another three chairs? The landscaping outside…what on earth is the grey glob? Realistically, the house next door is going to be just a few feet away. I have looked at the buildings on finished PSW sites and I think of triangles and squares, like a child’s building blocks. They are ugly. Hud homes comes to mind. Finally, E Olmos is NOT and will not become a family friendly place to live. A jogger was killed (and blamed for wearing ear phones) on this street but I believe the driver was at fault. Three cats have been run over and our dog was hit by a car and we live mid way between the stop sign and the ‘mound’a’bout’. Multiple times cars have whizzed by past the school bus as my kids have been picked up or dropped off for school. Has Olmos Park P.D. helped? Nope. They avoid doing anything I guess because a bad report would count against the city’s statistics of being safe. But they have arrested me for pepper spraying a man running to attack me the moment I was about to unlock my front door to go inside. The city website even suggests carrying pepper spray for safety. The place is a mess. Police intimidate, lie, and terrorize. Articles call it stately and run down. PSW misrepresents what is being built. For a lot of money.

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