Something you know: the Pearl has become the epicenter for revitalization along the northern reach of the San Antonio River.
Something you probably suspected: It's only getting bigger and gaining steam.
Something you might have noticed: pretty much the only way to live in there is to be a renter.
Something you might have hoped for: soon it will be possible to be a homeowner on the Museum Reach, within walking distance of the Pearl.
Bonus good news: You don't have to renovate anything!
Developer Steve Yndo is taking the next step in development in the River North area, by creating East Quincy on the corner of Newell and Quincy Streets on the river, just steps from the Pearl. When the development is finished, the 25 townhouses will establish a home ownership base in the area, and perhaps set a valuable example for lenders and developers wary of branching out of the so-called "renter nation."
Read about the rental market's recent boom near the Pearl in today's story from Iris Dimmick: "River House: Rooms with a Museum Reach View."
"[Renting] has been the darling of the industry for the last few years," Yndo said.
But he's savvy to another growing trend. After two generations of "home ownership" being synonymous with suburbia, more and more people want the best of both. They want to walk or bike to work and play, and return to a home that they own, whether an apartment, townhouse or single family dwelling.
His instincts proved accurate. Shortly after the project was announced 21 of the 25 homes were under reservation. Fifteen have moved under contract.
So far, the units are attracting young professionals and empty-nesters looking to downsize near-downtown. In San Antonio, age groups have always mixed well. It's not a city of retirement communities and YP Ghettos.
"Hopefully that trend continues," Yndo said. He hopes the Quincy East will be a "nice integrated community."
He's not losing any sleep over the fact that the units are not geared toward growing families. The neighborhoods around downtown (Tobin Hilll, Government Hill, Dignowity Hill, King William, and Lavaca) offer ample bedrooms and backyards. San Antonio's reputation as a family city is well-deserved. You don't often hear people with three kids at home complaining that there's nothing to do on a Friday night. Or that there are no other families around.
For singles and empty-nesters, though, the city is going to have to carve out some space if it wants greater density downtown. Some low-maintenance, community-fostering, easy-access space. Like maybe some townhouses across the street from the Pearl, on the Museum Reach.
Perhaps the most exciting change afoot for the area is the return to walkability. Before Highway 281 bisected midtown neighborhoods, the area was strongly residential. Only with the tourniquet of the highway stopping the flow of foot traffic did industrial warehouses and offices step in to fill the void. Blocks lengthened and streets widened to accommodate the increasing speed and size of automobiles.
But now, with the return of residents, Yndo explained the plans to return the streets to pedestrian scale, allowing for on-street parking and trees, both of which are proven to increase driver awareness and decrease accidents as traffic speed slow.
It's all part of the reclaiming of downtown by people disinterested in two-car garages and manicured lawns. While East Quincy will have a one-car garage for each unit, Yndo believes this will be sufficient for the homeowners. He anticipates that in 5-10 years, perhaps, when the area has evolved even more as a biking and pedestrian neighborhood, that garages will be optional on development.
Less optional if building "green." Yndo and his team, which included Alamo Architects, worked with Build Green SA to ensure that the homes were energy efficient. But perhaps their most environmentally friendly feature is their density. The less space we take up, the fewer resources we use.
Part of our nation's suburban hangover is that we fear density. We measure our personal bubbles in acres. I've seen this all over the inner city where multi-family developments pop up around neighborhoods. Best I can tell, people have mental images of crowded tenement housing and seas of cars.
But density is more nuanced. It's no longer the case that people are paying for as much square-footage and yard as they can get. People care more about where they are, what else is in close proximity, and the quality rather than the quantity of their space. Yndo's East Quincy units are marketed at $240-400,000K and they are selling because of the number one, two and three rules of real-estate: location, location, location.
Bekah is a native San Antonian. She went away to Los Angeles for undergrad before earning her MSc in Media and Communication from the London School of Economics. She made it back home and now works for Ker and Downey. She is one of the founding members of Read the Change, a web-based philanthropy and frequent contributor to the Rivard Report. You can also find her at her blog, Free Bekah.