Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Surrounded by all the development added to lower Broadway Street in recent years, this tiny house begs for a bundle of colorful balloons tied to the roof, as though preparing to drift off with its owner to a fantastical adventure.
But this isn’t the animated movie Up, or the true story that inspired it. No one occupies the diminutive dwelling at Broadway and Alling Street with its white plaster walls and pitched roof, a picture window with curtains facing the street, and massive bougainvillea shrubs that flank the door.
In fact, it’s not even a house.
Measuring exactly 196 square feet, the small structure sits a peculiar distance from the busy street in the center of a 7,500-square-foot lot that once served as a used car dealership. Now developers plan to make the lot the site of a multistory building, according to design renderings.
“It was the shed for a salesperson” when it was a used car lot, said Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), who owns the property and tiny house. “But it was run down, overgrown with vines. It was a simple box building with a flat roof.”
After buying the parcel 12 years ago, Treviño removed the roof and added a new white roof, a bathroom, air conditioning, and other details to make it his own, doing most of the work himself.
“It was fun – a great project, just a little thing,” said Treviño, an architect by trade. “Most people are surprised it was my building. But it performed beautifully.”
And it reflected his principles of responsible design, smart construction, and building only what you need. “It was a way for me to do something to utilize the property in a smart, thoughtful way without breaking the bank,” he said.
The structure also incorporates the energy-saving white roof concept Treviño backed last year through the City of San Antonio's Under 1 Roof program that replaces eligible homeowners’ failing roofs with energy-efficient ones.
Since 2006, Broadway’s mini mansion served as the architect’s office until he joined the City Council in 2014. The coziness of the quarters wasn’t an issue.
“Most of my work was out in the field, so I used it as a place to spend a little time during the day, maybe meet with people,” he said. “It wasn’t meant to be an all-day office space.”
Besides, he said, it’s more spacious inside than it would appear.
His work on City Council now keeps him too busy to use the space, so Treviño recently sold the property to Stream Realty. “With things changing in my life and growth in the area, it’s just time to move on,” he said. The Bexar County Appraiser this year assessed the value of the property at $333,440.
Renderings by architects at Overland show a modern, multistory, mixed-use tower known as 2100 Broadway going in. Because the developer is seeking a change in River Improvements Overlay (RIO) District to allow for a taller building height, rezoning will first be considered by the Historic and Design Review Commission – which typically looks at design and historic preservation.
"We are very excited about this proposed project and our chance to be involved in the redevelopment of the Broadway corridor," Ryan Harrison, managing partner for Stream Realty, said Wednesday. "In order for this project to proceed, the property must be rezoned from commercial and high-density multifamily use to office and commercial use. Our team has just begun the rezoning process, including outreach to nearby neighborhood associations and other area stakeholders. We look forward to working with the neighborhoods and other stakeholders on this project throughout the rezoning process and beyond."
Meanwhile, Treviño is searching for another piece of property where the tiny office, or at least parts of it, can go.
“If I can move the house completely, I will,” he said. But the existing foundation is not stable, making the move difficult, if not impossible. “What I do want to save is the roof. It’s a very unique roof.”
For now, though, the house sits tucked into the grassy lot between Fresh Horizons Catering and Enterprise Rent-a-Car, and across from the former ButterKrust factory, The Bakery Building on Broadway. Behind it, the new Alamo Colleges headquarters under construction – at the former Playland Park site – makes it appear even smaller, perhaps more insignificant.
So while it’s reminiscent of the tiny house of Seattle’s Edith Macefield, who inspired Up by famously refusing $1 million for her 600-square-foot home in resolute protest of development, this structure will someday soon give way to progress.
If only it could go by balloon.