New Housing Projects in Historic Tobin Hill and Lavaca Neighborhoods Advance

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A northwest view at the corner of E. Locust St. and E. Euclid Ave. of the 10-story apartment complex proposed across the river from the Pearl.

The Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) on Wednesday gave conceptual approval for one new development near the Pearl, and partial approval to another in Lavaca, that will bring added housing to the center city.

Austin-based commercial real estate firm Sabot Development requested approval to demolish structures on property across the River Walk from the Pearl to make room for a 10-story, mixed-use tower with 325 residential units.

Bounded by the east sections of Euclid, Myrtle, Elmira, and Locust streets, the 1.5-acre property is presently home to a flea market storage warehouse, a production company, a co-working space (Cubes at the Quonset), a construction company, a broker/leasing office, and Pinky’s Shaved Ice.

There are no single-family homes on the site and the Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) found none of the other structures had historical significance.

The land, owned by a partnership known as AC Rio that includes Gregory Porter and Peter Grojean, is under contract with Sabot Development, which is led by San Antonio native Jim Young.

“We think this will be a great addition to the neighborhood,” Young said of his first development in San Antonio. “It will allow people who want to live near the Pearl and interact with the area, who don’t want to purchase a home, a nearby option.”

Plans for the estimated $100 million development show 14,000 square feet of ground-level retail space facing east toward the River Walk, and 3,000 square feet of multifamily residential space, as well as a 400-space parking garage. Sidewalks surrounding the property measure 15 feet to 25 feet, creating a “streetscape experience” with newly planted trees, benches, and bicycle racks.

Designed by the San Antonio office of architecture firm Gensler, the development is being called Elmira at Myrtle.

Construction will begin in about a year, following permitting and a certificate of appropriateness from HDRC, and last for 18 to 24 months, said Michele Haussmann, a land use consultant and principal with Land Use Solutions. She said one corner of the block, at Myrtle and Elmira, that was once considered for the project will not be included.

“We anticipate demolition would begin in approximately 12 months, after the City development permits are approved and just before construction,” Haussman said.

The property is currently designated as high-density mixed-use in the Tobin Hill Neighborhood Plan, and regional mixed-use in the Midtown Sub Area Plan. The developer will go before the Zoning Commission on Dec. 3 to request a zoning change that would permit multifamily and commercial uses. A City Council public hearing is scheduled for Jan. 16.

Also Wednesday, HDRC commissioners gave limited conceptual approval to Aspire Multifamily, a company created by the California-based real estate investors Harris Bay, to modify three historic structures near Brackenridge High School and build two structures with a total of 39 residential units.

The developer plans to make exterior modifications to three 1950s-era structures in the 1700 block of South St. Mary’s Street at Jacob Street, including removing paint from the brick, installing new doors, storefront systems, and a street canopy, and painting.

Courtesy / CREO Architecture

A rendering of the Harris Bay project.

The proposed plans show the original building facades remaining intact and the structures behind either renovated or rebuilt for multifamily housing and a small commercial space. A new, fourth building will be added to the property, and a parking lot situated at the back of the buildings.

“Why preserve? Because to me, it is the most exciting and challenging way to enhance and preserve our heritage, all while we help to celebrate the diversity of the community of Southtown and San Antonio,” said Jake Harris, managing partner, Harris Bay, in an email.

“What excites me about the location is it is a major feeder corridor into downtown … all of which make it easier for someone working downtown to connect with alternative modes of transport other than a car.” 

Several Lavaca residents who live near the project site voiced concerns to commissioners about the scale and modern look of a four-story addition to one of the facades.

While commissioners were satisfied with the developer’s revisions to other parts of the project, as recommended by OHP staff, they asked Aspire to consider reducing that building’s scale and how it integrates with the neighborhood.

“I still feel like the additions look like ‘additions,’ so if there are any improvements you can do to make it look more integrated, it would be easier for me to approve,” said Commissioner Paola Fernandez.

“We’re doing multiple buildings, so getting approval on three out of four is great,” said attorney Patrick Christensen, representing Aspire at HDRC. “We’ll go back and take their comments into consideration and come back on that four-story building and see if we can work with the neighborhood.”

Outside HDRC chambers, Christensen and architect Kris Feldmann of San Antonio architecture firm Creo, consulted with a group of affable Lavaca homeowners who gathered around and offered their own solutions to the commissioners’ requests. The groups have been meeting since the project planning began, Christensen said.

Harris said, “with fingers crossed,” construction would start at the end of the year or first part of 2020. The total project will be completed in phases as the market absorbs it, he added, and will be $2 million to $3 million in total cost.

Harris Bay acquired the South St. Mary’s property in September 2017. The developer also has an adaptive reuse mixed-use project in the works at 1405 S. Flores St. and has been planning a Pearl-like development called Essex Modern City since it purchased the sizable East Side property in 2016. 

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