A New Proposal for Broadway-Austin Highway Development

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Broadway Ellwood's Broadway-Austin Highway development. Rendering courtesy of Overland Partners, and Dallas-based Good Fulton, and Farrell.

Broadway Ellwood's Broadway-Austin Highway development. Rendering courtesy of Overland Partners and Good Fulton and Farrell Architects.

Richard Peacock Jr. is a patient man and a good listener. Owning and operating the popular Paloma Blanca restaurant on Broadway in Alamo Heights has taught him the value of effective communications with customers and employees alike. The product is important, but so is the service, and so is taking the time to engage everyone who has a stake in the process.

As a principal with Broadway Ellwood Co., Peacock has come to see his fellow Alamo Heights residents as worthy of the same careful communications. That's why he and his partners, who include Edward Kopplow, founder and chairman of Kopplow Construction, one of San Antonio's leading commercial construction companies, sent a timely installment of their "Dear Friends and Neighbors" letter to Alamo Heights residents on Tuesday.

Click here to read Peacock's letter.

The letter went out at the same time that Broadway Ellwood, working with Austin-based Argyle ResidentialOverland Partners, and Dallas-based Good Fulton, and Farrell, filed development plans with the City of Alamo Heights for a four-story, 150-unit residential and mixed-use project on the corner of Broadway and Austin Highway. As envisioned, the project could include a restaurant with outdoor patio seating, a cafe, or other ground-level retail and become the catalyst for a more pedestrian-friendly redevelopment of Alamo Heights' declining commercial corridor. A large green space fronts the development on the corner.

Broadway Ellwood's Broadway-Austin Highway development. Rendering courtesy of Overland Partners.

Map of Broadway Ellwood's Broadway-Austin Highway development. Rendering courtesy of Overland Partners.

Tuesday's filing will place the project on the Architectural Review Board's January agenda, and the letter will give residents the opportunity from the outset to stay informed and involved, Peacock said. After preliminary review and comment by the seven-member design board, the project would then go to the 12-member Planning and Zoning Commission, then back for a second architectural board review and final recommendation, and finally on to the five-member City Council.

Broadway Ellwood Group Principal Richard Peacock Jr.

Richard Peacock Jr.

"We would like to be through the process by the end of spring, and my best guess is that we could break ground before the end of 2015," Peacock said.

The proposal comes nearly one year after Dallas-based Alamo Manhattan abandoned plans for a six-story, 240-unit development on the same corner that met with opposition from a small but vocal group of Alamo Height residents. City officials withheld approval of the project and a second, scaled-down version.

(Read more: Alamo Heights Says No to Proposed Development Project.)

Broadway Ellwood and its partners hope the community responds positively to the project's scaled down size and contemporary Mediterranean design, which complements the vintage Mobile gas station with its trademark rooftop Pegasus on the southeast corner of Austin Highway and Broadway, and the nearby McNay Art Museum with its Spanish Colonial Revival mansion.

An aerial view of the Broadway Ellwood Company property. Owner Richard Peacock also owns and operates the nearby Paloma Blanca Mexican Cuisine restaurant. Courtesy image.

An aerial view of the Broadway Ellwood Company property. Owner Richard Peacock also owns and operates the nearby Paloma Blanca Mexican Cuisine restaurant. Courtesy image.

"One of the major mistakes we made on the first go-around was that we didn't get involved in (the beginning of) the conversation, we were just the property sellers," Peacock said. "We really liked the developer, but we disagreed on their initial strategy in that what they proposed was substantially larger than what we anticipated or felt we could support."

The new proposal comes after months of reflection and study. That included an open letter from Peacock published on the Rivard Report in April.

"We decided we needed to take a step back and a deep breath, and take some time to reflect on the events that led up to the vote and how we could do things differently," Peacock said. "One thing about a spectacular defeat: it was very public and we had a lot of good people call us afterwards who were not scared off, and Argyle was one of the entities that called us."

Argyle Residential is the developer for 1130 Broadway, a 290-unit multi-family project located on the east side of Broadway in River North near the Pearl Brewery, coincidentally almost across the street from Overland Partners' offices.

Rendering of Argyle Residential's 1130 Broadway.

Rendering of Argyle Residential's project at 1130 Broadway.

"San Antonio already was on our radar," said John Burnham, Argyle's managing director. "This opportunity really appealed to us to do something special that fits comfortably in the community."

“Alamo Heights is truly a 'city of beauty and charm,' and we believe this project captures the spirit of the area,” said Dudley Simmons, Argyle's other managing director. “We look forward to introducing a new standard of multifamily living to the community.”

That period of reflection led Peacock and Argyle to draw up "eight design parameters" which Peacock listed in his Tuesday letter to Alamo Heights residents. The new project, he wrote, would:

  • Have a maximum height of no more than four stories, above two levels of underground parking;
  • Preserve the triangular-shaped land at the corner of Broadway and Austin Highway, and hopefully even increase its size;
  • Be a mixed-use concept, with retail on the ground floor to bring life to the street;
  • Not have ANY adverse impact on the floodway;
  • Contain property entrance and exit points that minimize disruptions to neighbors;
  • Include adequate, self-contained residential and retail parking that is screened from view;
  • Promote enhanced connectivity and walkability throughout the development and to neighboring properties; and
  • Contemplate a building design that avoids long expanses of flat walls along any property line.

“Our ownership group continues to believe that any proposed development for this property must be of benefit to our community, have exceptional architecture, and be economically viable.” Peacock said.  “We reflected carefully upon the feedback from the previous effort, and decided that in order to meet our own high expectations and present a plan that would be broadly accepted by the community, we couldn’t again just take the position of a typical seller – we would need to be involved in the project’s design from the outset.”

Broadway Ellwood and many of its supporters in Alamo Heights want the development on Broadway and Austin Highway to spark a broader renewal of the small municipality's commercial corridor. Right now, they believe, Alamo Heights is missing out on something bigger and risks losing more businesses to more inviting, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.

South of Alamo Heights below Hildebrand, Broadway continues to experience a remarkable transformation as a residential, commercial and cultural corridor that began more than a decade ago with Silver Ventures redevelopment of the Pearl Brewery complex. The growing vitality of Southtown and other inner city neighborhoods, and efforts by Rackspace Founder and Chairman Graham Weston and others to spur downtown redevelopment have come to symbolize San Antonio's drive to rebrand itself as "a city on the rise," able to retain and attract talented young professionals and their families.

(Read more: Alamo Heights Vote All About Broadway Corridor.)

"In our view this isn't just about getting a deal done on this particular piece of property," Peacock said. "This is about the future of our community and how we choose to move forward. One thing we are trying to do with this development is create a sense of walkability and connection in this community. If you look at the streetscape up and down Broadway in Alamo Heights right now we aren't inviting people to walk along the street, we are daring them to do so."

To accelerate reinvestment in the Alamo Heights stretch of Broadway, Peacock and his partners are asking city officials to set aside the incremental tax revenue from the development, which they estimate will exceed $100,000 annually, and invest it in sidewalks, crosswalks, shade trees and other corridor infrastructure. Those improvements, they believe, would attract greater private sector investment.

"This project can facilitate improvements beyond our property lines, and so we see it changing the trajectory of the business corridor along Broadway," Peacock said. "One of the positives that came out of the previous effort was a very clear sense that the vast majority of citizens recognize the current state of things and do want to take positive steps to improve it.

"We are a community full of possibilities, but it's largely unrealized," Peacock said. "The younger people are not only demanding an honest appraisal of our retail sector - they want to see a plan enacted for revitalizing it."

*Featured/top image: Broadway Ellwood's Broadway-Austin Highway development. Rendering courtesy of Overland Partners, and Dallas-based Good Fulton, and Farrell.

This story was originally published on Dec. 30, 2014.

Related Stories:

Alamo Heights Vote All About Broadway Corridor

Alamo Heights Says No to Proposed Development Project

Broadway/Austin Highway Property Owners: An Open Letter to Friends and Neighbors

Alamo Heights’ Gateway to High Density Housing

Lower Broadway’s New Low-Density Housing

17 thoughts on “A New Proposal for Broadway-Austin Highway Development

  1. This proposal is much, much better than the first. I appreciate the focus on walkability, and support each and every one of those 8 bullet points.

  2. Looks like a fantastic opportunity. I hope the people of Alamo Heights can realize the value of community development and get behind this project.

  3. Looks like a beautiful project. I hope Alamo Heights realizes that continued new development is important, otherwise, the Broadway corridor will decline and you’ll see more title loan shops and sketchy businesses like that. Plus, that intersection is not the least bit pedestrian friendly (as somebody who walks in that area and tries crossing without there even being a crosswalk or walk sign).

  4. Beautiful. And assuming it doesn’t stray too far from these elevations, it upholds the neighborhood’s aesthetics. I think this will sit well with both old school 09ers and with the younger creative class that’s rolling up their sleeves and injecting Broadway with new life. Bravo. a

  5. There are a number of problems with this latest proposal that make this second attempt to force something upon Alamo Heights residents once again a non-starter. I respectfully ask the developer to withdraw these plans immediately and give up on imposing any dense development at this unsuitable location. Here are some of the main concerns.

    Traffic Impact

    Mr Peacock’s letter states that this has been “considered” and that they “feel confident” there will be no adverse effect. This sounds very subjective, so to continue the openness may we see the reports from any traffic studies performed? It should be remembered from earlier this year that the Manhattan Project developer stated that traffic had been studied, but it was actually just one Tuesday monitoring traffic at the intersection, hardly very comprehensive. Given how the current developer is looking to sequester even more roads at this intersection, this aspect must be looked at very carefully indeed, as common sense would surely say that if you are taking away streets, and trying to build commerce in the area, then there would be an adverse effect.
    Removal of Ellwood, Ausway and a lane from Austin Highway is a significant sacrifice of road infrastructure at the busiest intersection in Alamo Heights. Once gone, they could never be replaced. If there was a dense development there, workmen, tradesmen, retail customers, servicemen, delivery vehicles would also converge at this intersection further impeding traffic flows. In addition Mr Peacock’s letter makes it clear that he is petitioning the City council to put all of the tax revenue and right of way sale revenue towards making more of Broadway attractive to commerce. If successful, it would drive more traffic towards north of the proposed site. These constrictive forces will incent traffic to cut through Albany or Montclair to get to Broadway, bringing an increased risk to children, pets and pedestrians on these currently very quiet neighborhood streets. So far from improving the walkability of Alamo Heights, it could actually make it worse. A pedestrian footbridge over Austin Highway as it connects to Broadway would be a more material way to improve the area’s walkability. Let us also remember that Cambridge Elementary School is just a stone’s throw away from the proposed development area. More traffic around children is never something that sits well with any parent.

    School Impact

    Mr Peacock’s letter states that this has been “considered” and that they “feel confident” there will be no adverse effect. This sounds very subjective, so to continue the openness may we see the reports from any school studies performed? My wife recently volunteered at Cambridge Elementary School and has firsthand experience as to how stretched the resources are. Alamo Heights ISD has an excellent well-deserved reputation. Indeed it could be argued that it is the crown jewel of the area, and is in fact the reason why my family moved here over a decade ago. No one would want to see resources stretched to a point where standards are diluted, as that really would detract the younger population this project is seeking to appeal to. When I moved here, I was young and Alamo Heights had the same wonderful appeal then as it does today. Reports of our community’s “demise” are greatly exaggerated.

    Water Impact

    Mr Peacock’s letter states that this has been “considered” and that they “feel confident” there will be no adverse effect. This sounds very subjective, so to continue the openness may we see the reports from any water studies performed? It should be remembered that Alamo Heights has been on Stage 4 (yes four) water restrictions for some time now, while the rest of San Antonio is on Stage 2. Evidently our water supplies are not abundant, but the developer feels that adding a dense development on top of the current demand will not have an adverse effect. Am I missing something here?
    For such important issues as schools, water and traffic, it is extremely offensive to have these dismissed with a glib one sentence reference to them in Mr Peacock’s letter saying how they have been “considered”. This does little to reinforce any intent to build alliances with the community and only furthers the divide. It is stated that the community has been listened to, and yet no one from the development side has even reached out to the Alamo Heights Neighborhood Association. Again this disingenuous façade does little to change the distrust for this project in the community.

    Why Here?

    Why put a dense development right on the busiest intersection in Alamo Heights? Right at a point where waters converge in heavy flash flood conditions. And there would be two levels of underground parking? Seriously? Water always finds a way to find the lowest ground, it would only be a matter of time and people’s cars would be flooded, if not worse. That has the potential to undermine the viability of the parking strategy and ultimately the long term feasibility of any dense development at that place. Do we even need this dense development? The new apartments nearby at 1111 Austin Highway are struggling for occupancy and it has been completed for many months.

    Remember Last Time?

    In the Rivard article it states that there was a “small but vocal group” of Alamo Heights residents opposed to the Manhattan Project. That is simply not true. Let us not forget that when this came around the first time, there were many, many signs in people’s yards protesting against the “High Rise”. There was not one yard sign in favor of it. At the City Council meeting in Cambridge Elementary School in January 2014 many residents, making the large majority of the people who spoke, protested against it, and the vast majority of people speaking for it were either aligned with the developer or not residents. Does the developer really think that taking one floor off part of the originally proposed Manhattan Project, not building on top of the flood plain (just right next to it) and sequestering more public roads is really going to sway residents in favor now?

    In Closing

    The precedents this development would set for Alamo Heights are highly undesirable. Precedents on Special Use Permits, selling City land, the size of development are all significant. What could they lead to next?

    Mr Peacock’s letter also states how it is going to ask the City council to apply proceeds from the new development towards investments that would hope to attract further commerce to the area. How appropriate is it for a developer to ask for this to be done? The council was elected by the residents of Alamo Heights and should act in the interest of the residents not through obligation to any single developer.

    The wonderful community of Alamo Heights is about schools, family and community, not business, commercialization and development. As a resident I am not looking for Alamo Heights to become the next Pearl Brewery. Our community’s charm and appeal stems from being a wonderful historic residential neighborhood. A centrally located residential neighborhood with amenities around us, not drowning us. Alamo Heights will always retain its desirability because of its accessibility to other parts of the city, proximity to the airport, shops and downtown. Our biggest asset in Alamo Heights could be to maintain our small town atmosphere and be an oasis of residential desirability in a cauldron of development surrounding us.

    Think again … withdraw these plans. Hands off our streets.

    Julian Hall
    Alamo Heights

  6. Glad to see smart investment and progress by our local business leaders! This thoughtful approached deserves our community’s enthusiast support!

    Now, if we can just get the SA city council to leave Uber alone….

    Ben says it best:

    “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

    – Benjamin Franklin

  7. San Antonio is in need of newer developments like this that continue to bring young, new people to our city. It helps everyone and the future of our area. Young professionals are always seeking the latest and greatest spots to live, why not welcome them right here in Alamo Heights instead of sending them out North where everything is fresh and new? I look forward to the growth and opportunity we have in Alamo Heights!

    Kelly Wade Fry
    (Local business owner in Alamo Heights)

  8. Great refined project that 90% of our community wants.
    Thank you Peacock team for your continued efforts and communication.
    (Terrell Hills Resident)

  9. In practical offering above, there is little interest in a “public spot” in Alamo Heights. tsk, tsk, tsk., Think instead of the parcel in it’s entirety covered with fontains and gold plated (as in Rome) statues of grand historical figures. A new entrance to Alamo Heights beckoning to it’s fellows around the planet, a beginning to the next millenium…(I mean really, the Alamo Heights pool just does not cut it for grandeur.)
    Mark E. Kellmann, Architect, NCARB

  10. This development will benefit Alamo Heights and render that space productive. I have long thought that mixed-use retail/residential developments like this would suit the Broadway corridor, which is why I opposed a height-restrictive ordinance some time ago. We can’t avoid density, but we can embrace it, shape it, and learn to benefit from it.

  11. The elephant in the room is the closure of Ellwood Street, Ausway, and a lane of Austin Highway. There has not been any attention to the effect of these closures on the neighborhood, nor to issues of selling public land for private benefit. Ellwood, Fenimore, and Circle streets are already clogged with parked cars for Mr. Peacock’s Paloma Blanca restaurant and the other commercial properties in the area. These streets cannot take more cars and service vehicles. Streets are the circulation of a city. Closing streets is the equivalent of blood clots blocking arteries; heart attacks and strokes, etc. This project will lead to the deterioration of the immediate neighborhood, whose residents have NOT been included in any way during the proposals for this project.

    As for walkability, has any of the project supporters actually tried to walk across Broadway and Austin Highway? Alamo Heights City Council could improve the situation by installing pedestrian flyovers, which would help everyone including the children attending Cambridge Elementary School. Other ways to improve Alamo Heights would be to bury power lines, and encourage development on the northern side of the city along Broadway where this project might be more appropriate. An estimated benefit of $100,000 per year in taxes to Alamo Heights will do very little. The City Council should do the difficult thing and raise city taxes by a fraction of a penny. Then they could take the lead in improving the city for the benefit of all Alamo Heights residents, which is what they were elected to do.

  12. As a resident of Northwood (AHISD) for several decades, I have watched the Broadway corridor become less and less relevant within my life. The lack of capital investment in real property along Broadway has taken its toll. Alamo Heights has long been considered an upscale, nice place to live. However, those characteristics cannot be sustained by a community which won’t reinvest in itself, or allow others to invest on its behalf. Simply put, maintenance must be done on any asset, and Broadway is no different. At one time in my life, Basse Road was a path to an abandoned factory. It is now a much nicer retail node than Broadway, with quality residential projects in most all directions. Broadway has remained mostly stagnant during the same time frame, despite the strong residential back-up and historic roots as San Antonio’s “best” neighborhood. In my opinion, a community effort to support well planned development efforts along Broadway is long overdue. By encouraging well thought-out efforts by private capital to improve the real property along Broadway, Alamo Heights can stop Broadway’s slide and bring life back to its streets. Bravo!

  13. Perhaps Mr Peacock will answer a few questions on many residents’ minds:

    A. Exactly how many square feet of public streets and right-of-way is Mr Peacock and Mr Kopplow trying to buy from the City of Alamo Heights?

    B. How much total and per square foot are they offering to pay for that public land that they want to buy?

    C. Is he or CoAH going to pay to relocate the underground and above ground utilities? (During the 2014 second reincarnation of the Alamo Manhattan project I believe AT&T said it would cost $1 million just to relocate their cables under Ausway Lane.)

    D. Did Peacock/Kopplow or CoAH pay for the appraisal of the public land he wants to purchase to build this project?

    E. How many apt units per acre will this be? (Keep in mind the absolute max in CoSA is 55 units per acre.)

    F. Are they buying the triangular park at the corner of Broadway and Austin Highway from Bexar County, which owns it, or are they going to incorporate it into this project to make it look like it is part of the project without actually buying it?

    G. Is there any possibility of a second phase of this project on the so-called Optimist Club Christmas tree lot, which is actually public park land owned by CoAH?

    Thank you,

    John Joseph

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