New ‘For Sale’ Market Growing Around Pearl

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Under construction: SOJO Urban Development's East Quincy Townhomes on the River. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Under construction: SOJO Urban Development's East Quincy Townhomes on the River. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Last summer, a new townhouse development just west of the Pearl called East Quincy Townhomes by the River launched. It represents some of the first construction of home-ownership opportunities in an area known for industrial businesses, apartment complexes, and single-family homes interspersed.

For the developers, going first was a risk, but a calculated one: If just a small percentage of the thousands of new residents streaming into the urban core wanted to be buyers instead of renters, they reasoned, the project would be a success.

Word spread fast. Within months, nearly all 23 units of the East Quincy project were reserved, said Steve Yndo, principal of SOJO Urban Development. Because of this success, the locally based development company has launched a second, single-family townhome project even closer to the Pearl on the Museum Reach.

SOJO Crossing, to be built on the southeast corner of Myrtle Street and East Euclid Avenue, is less than a block from the Pearl complex's new footbridge near Hotel Emma.

"We found pent-up demand for (buying a home) in a walkable community," Yndo said during a Wednesday launch event at Cured. "It's the diversity of people down here that attracts them. ... There is a broad economic group. You run into different people and that makes life more interesting."

A map of SOJO Urban Development projects (top of map is south) including East Quincy Townhomes (top) and SOJO Crossing (bottom).

A map of SOJO Urban Development projects (top of map is south) including East Quincy Townhomes (top) and SOJO Crossing (bottom).

East Quincy is now 92% sold and is scheduled for completion in early 2015. SOJO Crossing construction starts in March 2015 and should be completed in spring 2016. Both were designed by Alamo Architects.

"What we hope will happen on the west side of the (San Antonio River) between Pearl and St. Mary's Street (is it) will become the 'ownership neighborhood' for Pearl ... the leg between Pearl and Tobin hill area to close in the gaps."

SOJO Crossing's 27 units range from approximately 1,600 - 2,200 square feet and will be priced at $400-650,000, similar to East Quincy. "The three-story homes feature modern, industrial design ... enclosed garages, fenced yard spaces, and option to add an elevator, and balconies with scenic views of the city," stated a press release.

These projects are out of range for many San Antonians, but a good fit for affluent empty nesters, young professionals, and new families looking to avoid paying rent while living in the urban core. As infill development occupying vacant space, they also help build the inner city's tax base.

About 60% of East Quincy buyers are empty nesters and/or pre-retirees, while 40% are young professional couples, Yndo said. They come from all over the city – from Loop 1604, from Alamo Heights and Olmos Park, even nearby Monte Vista. Some reverse commute to workplaces like Valero and USAA.

Silver Ventures, which acquired the historic Pearl Brewery complex in 2002 and has served as catalyst for development along Broadway and throughout the urban core, so far has stayed with constructing rental units. The company also owns a substantial inventory of properties west of the river. Thus, even more real estate could be opening up for more residential or mixed uses in the near future, Yndo said.

"By 2016 you'll see a lot of the industrial (companies) make the move to a more efficient facilities elsewhere. A lot of them couldn't afford to move or sell until now. We're starting to see that shift."

Shifts and trends towards walkable, economically diverse neighborhoods downtown began 10-15 years ago in many Texas cities, he said. San Antonio has, historically, been a little late to the game.

"But people – especially at the administration level – realize that SA is going to continue to boom and it can not sustain a boom over the aquifer."

Yndo added that San Antonio could find a silver lining in its status as a late bloomer. "We correct the problems that a lot of other cities tend to have in terms of gentrification and blowing out neighborhoods that you can no longer recognize after 10 years. I think that we're going to avoid all those problems and be much better for it."

Steve Yndo, principal of SOJO Urban Development, describes the company's projects near the Pearl. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Steve Yndo, principal of SOJO Urban Development, describes the company's projects near the Pearl. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

East Quincy "represents a $6.2 million total investment with $788,234 in public infill development incentives," according to the Center City Development and Operations (CCDO) Department website. Yndo expects similar fee waivers for SOJO Crossing.

"By virtue of the incentives that are (given) to the developer, it lowers the price point for home owners in the area," said Ramiro Gonzalez, special projects manager of  CCDO who attended Wednesday's announcement. "The values otherwise would almost always prohibit home ownership (of new construction) in the area."

Many of these projects would not be happening without incentives, and there is even more risk to for-sale developers.

"This eases the risk for the developer to take that chance and experiment with the market," he said, adding that the trick is to strike a balance between incentives to develop, preservation of neighborhoods and neighbors, and investments – private and public.

In a sense, that's exactly what the Mayor’s Task Force on Preserving Dynamic and Diverse Neighborhoods is working on – a policy that anticipates how to handle development that might spark unnecessary displacement.

Related Stories:

Mayor Taylor Takes Helm of Gentrification Task Force

River House: Rooms with a Museum Reach View

East Quincy: For-Sale Townhouses coming to River North’s ‘Renters Reach’

Lavaca Neighbors To SAHA: “No More Apartments”

16 thoughts on “New ‘For Sale’ Market Growing Around Pearl

  1. The problem, in my opinion, is there’s just no happy medium. There seems to be a real grab-handed play for development in Tobin Hill and around the Pearl, with seemingly no one really looking out for the character of the neighborhood. The homeowners association seems to reject development out of hand, and the developers gobble up every tract within walking distance of the Pearl that they can. And then, up pop condos. Where are the sensibles? If they’re going to be granted incentives, shouldn’t there be some built-in price control?

    It distresses me every time I visit the Pearl, which is an amazing spot and no doubt a world-class reclamation, but it has also utterly changed in terms of patronage (eye-test) over the last year or so, and will continue to do so. And now, this. $300 a square foot. half a million $$ each. You can’t tell me, coupled with the neighborhood’s historical designation, that this kind of inflated nonsense isn’t going to start displacing people. And by people, I mean the existing neighborhood makeup as well as (supposed) middle-class people who might have been able to buy a house in the area a year or two ago. Soon, it’ll be a neighborhood of cave-dwelling daytraders and ped-a-tierres for Stone Oak types and out of towners. The Pearl is already clogged with Julian Golds and the landed elites from up Broadway, taking wedding or maternity photos, or just generally lazing about driving prices upward. They’re to be found there, of course, whenever they’re not clogging ballot boxes in Westover Hills or Stone Oak to vote against downtown initiatives. The Pearl’s valet parking is filled with Benzes and Beamers and Infinities. Inevitable patronage from the wealthy is going to sustain those five star restaurants and such, I get it. But pretty soon, it’s goodbye, neighborhood character.

    Five years from now, I don’t want Tiny Finch-esque knick knack shops and faux-post-industrial condos instead of that amazing taco place that used to be on the corner. With this kind of imaginatively-priced development, it’s going to end up like South Congress in Austin, which is totally unaffordable for normal folks, and which might be a best-case scenario. That’s not what I’d like to see happen in my neighborhood. I’d like to see it grow and change and become more walkable and more interesting socially and culturally, without pricing-out all that is already fantastic about it.

    • Beautifully written and I could not agree more. One side note, you’re going to see a slow down in economic development with the oil prices lowering and fracking slowly getting banned (Denton)…Eagle Ford brought a lot of money into San Antonio and it’s going to start drying up.

  2. That entire Pearl pocket went from neat to mess really quickly. This looks horrid and too jammed up. Lot of really great single family properties in the area could be considered before this mistake is made.

  3. Those things are eyesores. kind of sucks that they are building them right up to the edge of the north reach. Oh well, at least it was nice for a couple of years.

  4. Wow,$400k to $650k for a cracker-box condo? Plus you have to pay a condo fee on top of that? Heck, I have a 3-bedroom, 2 bath house with a yard just down the street that I’ll sell you for less than $400k–no condo fees and you would have a yard to boot. All I can say is my taxes better not start going up.

  5. Our city had so much history many places with a story..now i can’t even find my city within all these coffee houses and condos….our skyline had a story..now our skyline is hotels and lofts..lets be an individual city and get a railcar like San Francisco..lets be individuals and look and act like Austin….those that dont see whats wrong with this are the ones destroying our city.

  6. For the past 2 years, when my boyfriend and I have driven through the streets around the Pearl, I’ve remarked “In ten years we’ll be saying “Remember when these streets used to have warehouses and little old houses and now it’s all condos?” The Museum Reach is becoming a canyon. It’s too bad that it seems there are no real setback rules for the buildings. And puhleeze don’t say those condos are “affordable” for all kinds of people. The neighborhood will NOT continue to be a mix of types of people. And the modern facades are really BORING. Could someone design something with some curves or ornate wrought iron accents?

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