Housing Projects for Eastside, Lone Star Pitched at ‘Shark Tank’ Event

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Principal of AREA Real Estate David Adelman moderates at the ULI San Antonio Developer Shark Tank.

Hannah Whisenant / Rivard Report

Principal of AREA Real Estate David Adelman moderates at the ULI San Antonio Developer Shark Tank.

The ominous tune to that of a well-known and terrifying movie track played as the San Antonio chapter of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) opened it’s first “Developer Shark Tank” event Tuesday night as part of the Mayor’s Housing Summit happening this week.

Tailored after the popular TV show and similar events produced at ULI’s national meetings, the event featured two local real estate entrepreneurs who pitched a development proposal to a panel of “sharks”— and gave the audience a behind-closed-doors look at an investment committee review process.

There are no “winners,” cash prizes, or awards beyond free tickets to the ULI Texas Forum, but the developers can take this experience with them when they seek real-world investment in the future.

Finalist Peter French, CEO of Rising Barn, proposed an innovative single-family housing concept in Denver Heights called Porter Street Greens, and Randal McLeaird, owner of RAM Realty Group, proposed a multi-family housing and retail development space near the Lone Star Brewery District.

“These are examples of the kind of work we’re doing locally,” said ULI-SA Chairman Stephen Yndo of Yndo Commercial Real Estate.

With a vision and Powerpoint presentations, the developers faced a four-person panel of sharks that included Texas Capital Bank Executive Vice President Laurie Griffith, Silver Ventures Director of Development Bill Shown, Overland Partners Principal Madison Smith and San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley.

AREA Real Estate Principal David Adelman moderated the event. “I’ll be doing my best ‘Chris Harrison,’” he told the crowd, referring to ABC’s “The Bachelorette” host, and saying he would pop in and out during the program.

(From left) Silver Ventures Director of Development Bill Shown, Texas Capital Bank Executive Vice President Laurie Griffith, City Manager Sheryl Sculley, and Overland Partners Principal Madison Smith act as "sharks," or judges, at the ULI San Antonio Developer Shark Tank.

Hannah Whisenant / Rivard Report

(From left) Silver Ventures Director of Development Bill Shown, Texas Capital Bank Executive Vice President Laurie Griffith, City Manager Sheryl Sculley, and Overland Partners Principal Madison Smith act as “sharks,” or judges, at the ULI San Antonio Developer Shark Tank.

“The goal of tonight is to give all of you a real flavor and feel for what a real meeting actually feels like to a developer, to the investor or someone trying to raise money, and show what it takes to get a project done,” Adelman said. “We think that if we can share best practices, we can work together … to make San Antonio better and a place where we can live and families can live.”

Affordable housing and responsible infill were common themes in both proposals.

French made the case for his affordable housing project in Denver Heights, saying only 65 entry-level homes, in the $150,000 range, were built in San Antonio in 2015. Houses have gotten not only more expensive, but also bigger.

“Small houses are a big market opportunity,” he said. “Households are shrinking (everywhere).” He wants to fill that void for middle-income housing by partnering with a nonprofit to build five smaller, efficient, modular homes priced under that range.

The sharks were intrigued by his plan, but had feedback and some questions. Smith loved the design, though its weakness was in the outdoor space. Griffin wanted to know more about the construction aspect, and Shown challenged French to make the project scale-able. Sculley asked about building code adjustments and how the property taxes would be handled. She also suggested French look at how the project could satisfy requirements of the Urban Renewal housing bond recently passed by voters.

“So, are you in?” Adelman asked the sharks.

“I’m in on three conditions,” said Shown, as a potential investor. “Entitlement, permanent financing and scale-ability. I’d like to go in knowing there’s a bigger game to play.”

McLeaird proposed a public-private land investment called The Grid @ Lone Star, an 11.7-acre site divided into four parcels, two with 750 units of housing – both affordable and market-rate – and the others with office, retail and hotel developments. The $21 million project would be connected to the energy think-tank space, EPIcenter, via a pedestrian bridge.

McLeaird described the site as having several challenges, including $10 million worth of infrastructure issues, such as relocating power lines and restoring a historic trolley bridge.

Sculley expressed some concern over these issues, and Shown agreed, though he admitted how much he enjoys walking near the site located next to the former Lone Star Brewery. “I like how you’re tying it into the Lone Star,” Smith said.

Griffin suggested McLeaird find an investor “with very large pockets and a long timeline (because) lenders are not very patient. They want to see performance, from an interest and tax carry standpoint.”

ULI-SA Young Leaders, led by Hemisfair’s Commercial Real Estate Development Manager Juan Cano, organized Developer Shark Tank. The San Antonio Housing Authority sponsored the event, with proceeds going to the SAHA Education Investment Foundation which gives scholarships to graduating seniors and college students as well as attendance and honor roll incentives to local students.

French told the audience that his proposal would serve as a model for what can be done to build affordable housing. “What is astonishing to us is why nobody is stepping up to fill the market,” he said.

In addition to renderings and housing statistics, both French and McLeaird also presented detailed investment summaries, showing the financing structure and projected return on investment.

In the end, the proposals were judged by the volume of applause each received. The audience gave French’s proposal an enthusiastic response and McLeaird’s plenty of encouragement as well.

“This is a project five or 10 years ahead of its time,” Shown said.

4 thoughts on “Housing Projects for Eastside, Lone Star Pitched at ‘Shark Tank’ Event

  1. “Public-private investment”…maybe I need more coffee this morning, but I’m wondering about McLeaird’s proposal: Is the public side of it connected with what Prop. 6 of the 2017 bond covers? ‘Cause I don’t like the thought of SA/Bexar/others like an ISD, covering $10 million worth of infrastructure issues and tax abatements, just so the private side of it can inordinately profit from it.

    I’m hoping that our city manager was asking these types of questions, such as concerning power-line relocation (sounds expensive from my view) Anyway, thank you for this article. I’m already worried (irrationallyso?) that non-profits won’t have as much from the 2017 Prop. 6 part, and that for-profit developers will try and bend the word “blight” to fit a perceived need. Brava Fourth Estate!

  2. The biggest housing void seems to have been overlooked despite its extreme potential for profitability: accessible housing. People all over San Antonio are spending many thousands of dollars every day to renovate houses that have a couple steps between the garage or utility room and the house, to eliminate tripping hazards or accommodate mobility assistance devices. Who would want a house that physically excludes some of the potential homeowners and prohibits 100% of the homeowners from inviting anyone they want to visit? Yet there are more and more new apartments opening with only the minimum required number of accessible units, and many houses (as well as businesses, despite civil rights laws) continue to appear at the end of new construction with a physical barrier such as a step even when it would have been easy, cost efficient and common-sensible to put a ramp instead.
    Where’s the universal design in San Antonio?

  3. Time for Rental House ordinance. Limit the number of rental homes per street. This way people will want to move into inner city neighborhoods because they know that these are home owners and NOT renters….Some other large cities have started this and have seen a shift with more and more people buying in inner neighborhoods. Investors are buying up home is run down ares and selling them or mostly renting them out causing more harm than good.

  4. If you want to pass an ordinance pass an ordinance requiring Landlords of Rental Homes include “lawn care ” into their rental contracts and require the LL to to declare “Lawn Care Contract Holders” contact info in the rental agreement. The benefits are obvious.

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