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 Residential, Overland 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.
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.
"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.
"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.
"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.