UPDATED: Pocket Park in Alamo Heights Gaining Traction

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Glenn Huddleston explains his green space proposal to the Alamo Heights City Council and the audience on Monday. Photo by Edmond Ortiz

Glenn Huddleston explains his green space proposal to the Alamo Heights City Council and the audience on Monday. Photo by Edmond Ortiz

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a later interview with local developer Glen Huddleston.

Alamo Heights City Council and citizens have been debating the merits of controversial proposals to develop a mixed-use midrise in the heart of town for more than a year.

But local developer Glenn Huddleston's idea to instead create a public park on the land at Austin Highway and Broadway is gaining traction, at least with residents who have fretted over the mixed-use project.

(Read more: Alamo Heights Turning Point: Progress or Pocket Park?)

Huddleston of Harper Huddleston Inc. (pictured above) formally made his pitch to the City Council on Monday night. He proposes acquisition of land at Ausway Lane between Austin Highway and Broadway, and an adjacent .1517-acre, city-owned parcel. A local 501(c) 3 organization, similar in structure to a park foundation, would be chartered to receive the property.

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.

Huddleston pledged a cash payment of $100,000 to acquire and convey the tracts in their current condition. Mayor Louis Cooper has said there are some indications that Bexar County owns the sliver of land south of Ausway Lane, while the right-of-way, where Broadway and Austin Highway meet, belongs to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

Huddleston reiterated his concern that the $30-million, four-story, 150-unit complex proposed by Argyle Residential could one day send floodwaters toward the vintage Mobil gas station he owns across the street. The former station now houses an upscale retail business.

Huddleston urged that the newly acquired public acreage should be deed restricted, with the property remaining in city hands for public use. Huddleston also pressed for the city to keep following its own development code, especially in arguably the most prominent spot in town.

"Alamo Heights is a village. I believe a village is best enhanced through green space," Huddleston said, adding he has no intention of requesting a closure of streets, which Argyle seeks to accommodate its project.

------- Updated on Friday, Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m. ------

The Bexar County Appraisal District currently lists 29 properties owned by Huddleston. Eleven of the properties sit along different parts of Broadway inside Loop 410, with a handful of them inside Alamo Heights, including the former Mobile station tract.

In a later interview, Huddleston said it makes sense for the tracts he's eyeing at Austin Highway and Broadway to be preserved as green space because they are in a floodplain.

Huddleston said he sees establishing a permanent green space there as something that could help to raise the value, financially and in a community sense, of immediately adjacent land owned by Richard Peacock. Peacock is part of the Broadway-Ellwood group. He also owns the neighboring Paloma Blanca restaurant/retail center.

"Think of three quarters of an acre surrounded by green space," Huddleston said.

Huddleston said he feels the city will end up not selling its affected property for the current mixed-use project.

"I think (the City) will see closing streets as detrimental," he said.

Huddleston said a high-density mixed-use project such as the one proposed by Argyle belongs in an industrial area, where businesses once thrived, so that it could act as an economic catalyst.

"These kinds of projects generally are meant to be a renaissance for an industrial place, like Pearl (Brewery), where there used to be 80-year-old, obsolete or abandoned buildings," he explained. "You see a renaissance on South Flores, which used to be industrial, and Pearl on the northern part of the San Antonio River. Mixed-use is a fabulous tool for a renaissance like that."

In the end, for Huddleston, the green space idea is about helping to implement a greater sense of community pride in the center of Alamo Heights.

"Alamo Heights needs positives. Alamo Heights is consistent with a provincial village within an urban area. Green space is part and parcel of being a successful village," he said. "It'll bring pride. We need it."

---------

Huddleston said he would pledge initial funds to help support anything that would improve the condition of the land so that, even as green space, it could properly serve as a communal gathering spot. He added there should be a public process, facilitated by the City, where community members could have a say on how the green space should evolve.

"I have a very clear vision as this being a place for community events, for public art," he said. However, he does not envision it being a typical park with amenities such as a children's play area.

"I think of it as a blank palette. The use of it should emanate from the residents," he added. "But I don't think of it as a passive green space."

Argyle, advocates for the apartment complex, and Broadway-Ellwood Co., the partnership of individuals who own land where the midrise could sit, all say the mixed-use development could spark economic renewal for Alamo Heights.

The city's architectural review board last week gave conditional approval to preliminary design for the apartment complex, but by all appearances, that decision has not raised confidence among critical residents.

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

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

"Mr. Huddleston's proposal is a wonderful alternative to what we've been hearing about," said Debra Nason, vice president of the Alamo Heights Neighborhood Association. "He's being generous in his offer."

The city's planning and zoning commission is poised to further review the Argyle proposal at its next meeting while council members are likely to ask Cooper to place Huddleston's idea on a future council meeting agenda for action.

*Featured/top image: Glenn Huddleston explains his green space proposal to the Alamo Heights City Council and the audience on Monday. Photo by Edmond Ortiz

Related Stories:

Alamo Heights Turning Point: Progress or Pocket Park?

A New Proposal for Broadway-Austin Highway Development

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

26 thoughts on “UPDATED: Pocket Park in Alamo Heights Gaining Traction

    • I don’t think A.H. was ever trying to compete with lower Broadway & the Pearl. Instead they prefer a quiet neighborhood to raise their families.

  1. This article would have been more complete had it noted that Mr. Huddleston owns much of the existing retail along Broadway in and out of Alamo Heights. He has a vested interest in reducing supply/competition of retail space.

  2. In my experience I have never seen so much deliberation over a lot of land. I could easily see efforts being spent in neighborhoods with much less friction.

    • Efforts being spent in Alamo Heights neighborhoods with much less friction?????
      Would you mind sharing your experience and vision?

  3. @David. Where did you ever get the idea that Alamo Heights wants to be the Pearl? I don’t know anyone who lives in AH on either side of this issue who has ever wanted that.

    Your first sentence says thid has been going on for “more than a year”. It would have been clearer and far more accurate to have just said the actual truth–“three years”.

  4. One cannot imagine, in great cities of the world, such drama for either a pocket park _or_ mixed-use development. It would just get done, and the world would keep turning.

    • Alamo Heights is not a great city, it is a small bedroom community surrounded by a great city. All we ask is that developers follow our Comprehensive Plan. When they do otherwise, we ask them to go elsewhere, and our world keeps turning. If the media of San Antonio makes a drama out of this, that’s their prerogative. Our media certainly hasn’t. (Of course we have no media 😉

  5. I used to live just up Broadway from that little parcel of land. It would be almost impossible to get to on foot from the west side of Broadway and the south side of Austin highway. Green space is great, but if it’s not user-friendly, then what’s the point? Keeping one wealthy man’s property from flooding?

    • Page, many folks are not aware that the developers only have 53% of the land (.7 acre) they need for this project.

      They want the city of AH to close not 1, not 2, but 3 streets and sell them the other 47% (.6 acre) of the land they need at ONE-TENTH of its appraised value.

      This project with its 2-story underground garage is located in the FEMA Floodway. SA River Authority (which represents FEMA in Bexar County) says the worst flooding in the entire county is at that exact intersection. It doesn’t seem like a good place to build 150 apts to me.

      • Have you ever been to NYC? That whole city is in similar danger. New Orleans? It’s the same. Okay. What about the closest and most recent example, North Padre Island? They are building on a barrier island. Look up the word. It’s scary stuff!

  6. Huddleston’s ‘pocket park’ aptly named considering that he is trying desperately to use his own deep pockets to stand in the way of an improved broadway corridor. He compares the proposed mixed use development to the Pearl and says it belongs elsewhere – personally I think a miniature Pearl would be perfect in Alamo Heights.

    • Omar, do you live in Alamo Heights? If not, you should invite the developers to build in your backyard.

      Why on earth do you think the densest apt project in the state (110 apts per acre) would be “perfect” for AH?

      • Hi Guy – Didn’t see your response until now. Sorry for responding late. Frankly, what I see along Broadway in Alamo Heights currently looks a lot like urban blight. Empty retail space, faceless office buildings, restaurants which are far past their prime. YES, I make these observations as someone who LIVES IN ALAMO HEIGHTS – TWO blocks from the proposed project. I think we need a dose of population density to boost the local economy and spur investment in revitalizing the Broadway corridor in Alamo Heights. Lets get real – there are more antique shops than truly good restaurants, more dive bars than nice bars, and more faceless office buildings than fun shops or entertainment – actually, there is no entertainment in Alamo Heights along Broadway. You’re welcome to disagree, but I think it would be cool to live in a place where I can walk to thriving and fun shops, entertainment, food, and bars – a place where all the coolest business in San Antonio want to be.

  7. That part of the city just does not seem a good fit for high-density housing regardless of who occupies the structure. Whether Huddleston sees any benefit from it being developed otherwise is germane only to the context of how the story is being presented and seems irrelevant to a well-reasoned decision on the land’s use.

  8. All of the units of the complex that face Austin HWY. would be exposed to traffic noise, making this less than a good location to live. Other than that, there is no glaring error in the thinking. (it is not an awful project) Without any political bias, the park is not a bad use of the land, and the apartments (who decided that Alamo Heights was on the Mediterranean Sea?) are not exceptional, something that Alamo Heights needs to maintain it’s position of the “elite” spot in the City of San Antonio. A correctly configured urban park space will mark Alamo Heights with something besides a sign on Broadway, a consideration to be contemplated.

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