Courtesy / GFF Architects
Renderings for a planned four-story mixed-use development in the heart of Alamo Heights received unanimous support from its City Council on Monday.
It’s been more than two years since the Council granted a special use permit (SUP) to Argyle Residential, which plans to build a 150-unit apartment complex and 5,100 sq. ft. of retail space on a triangular tract at the intersection of Broadway Street and Austin Highway. A multi-story underground garage will accommodate parking.
After receiving the SUP, the developers and their partners waited months for various agencies to complete their studies of drainage patterns around the property.
The Council’s action on Monday was another procedural achievement for Argyle, which, along with its partners, has heard from many residents fearful of the project’s size and potential impact on neighborhood traffic, parking, and drainage.
Argyle has long touted the development as something that will provide more residential and commercial options to the upper Broadway corridor and increase walkability in the area.
The site for the $40 million project will rest on a tract that has been owned by four men, including Richard Peacock, owner/operator of the nearby Paloma Blanca restaurant.
The development site is on a 1.41-acre lot while a .408-acre Alamo Heights-owned lot, south of Ausway Lane, will remain an open greenspace. Ausway Lane will be permanently closed as part of the development.
The structure’s footprint will measure 48,219 sq. ft., and include 259 off-street parking spaces. There also will be some parking on two adjacent side streets, Fennimore Avenue and Circle Street, the result of Peacock’s involvement in the project.
The Council on Monday also replatted the lots and approved a maintenance agreement for the land between Alamo Heights and the developer.
The project will include trees planted around the property and along Fennimore Avenue, sidewalks along Austin Highway, and along parts of Broadway Street.
Part of Ellwood Street is reconfigured in the final design to ensure that emergency first responders have reliable access to the development and to properties to its immediate north.
John Burnham, Argyle’s managing director, said it will take around 22 months to build the $40 million complex.
Mayor Bobby Rosenthal said Argyle and its partners have made several concessions – as have residents – to advance a unique project that, once completed, will change the appearance of Broadway Street and Austin Highway.
“[Developers] have been straight-forward through the process, complying with everything we’ve asked them for on the SUP,” Rosenthal said after the Council approved the design.
“I hope even those [who] haven’t supported us in the past…when construction is done and the building is operational, they’ll look at it differently,” Burnham added. “I hope they’ll look at it and say it was a positive thing for Alamo Heights.”
While public concern over the project has decreased since the Council approved the SUP, some criticism still remains. Alamo Heights notified property owners within a 200-foot radius of the project site about the final design. Eight property owners expressed opposition; one statement of support came from a ninth property owner.
Julian Hall, Alamo Heights Neighborhood Association president, said many residents continue to worry about the project’s height, density, and potential impact on traffic and drainage.
According to Hall, the association had hoped the Council could halt the project.
But if Alamo Heights were to proceed, the association offered recommendations, including making sure developers completely adhere to the 2015 SUP and that they and City staff regularly provide residents with construction progress reports.
Janet Hans was one of a few residents concerned about the perspective of one rendering that shows how the apartment complex would appear to people looking north on Broadway Street.
Hans said the rendering did not accurately portray the building’s height in relation to surrounding structures and landmarks, such as the former Mobil gas station with the iconic Pegasus sign.
Overland Partners Principal Rick Archer disagreed, saying the rendering was accurate.
“You say [the building] is not going to loom. It’s going to loom,” Hans said.
Former Councilman Bill Kiel, who has long voiced questions about the project, said it is not the most ideal development. However, the developers have made concessions to make the project work and it’s time to move on, he said.
“I’m in favor of the project at this point,” he added.
The City’s Architectural Review Board (ARB) signed off on the design in July with one recommendation: to return an architectural roof feature that was part of the original design as seen in 2015.
The architectural feature – described by Councilman Fred Prassel as a cupula – would be a non-habitable space at the southern forefront of the building, seen only from Broadway Street.
Developers recently thought the feature would not work, especially with maximum height requirements, and scaling it down would save them money in the long run.
But the Council sought a compromise. Some members and a few residents thought the cupula – as envisioned in the original design or something close to it – would be an defining touch for the project.
“It gives it a sense of focus coming up Broadway,” said John Gaines, ARB chairman.
Archer agreed, saying such a roof aesthetic could offer an element of “elegance and grace” to the building’s exterior facing the Broadway/Austin Highway junction.
Burnham said if all goes well in finalizing paperwork, construction could begin as soon as in one month.
While he could not quote estimated rental prices for the apartment complex, Burnham voiced confidence that the demand for affordable, upscale multi-family housing is strong today as it was when Argyle took up the project more than two years ago.
“Our expectations haven’t gone down,” he said. “There’s clearly a market for luxury living in the city of San Antonio and in Alamo Heights. We’ve seen that at the Pearl.”