Almost 300 vacant townhomes of the 1940s Billy Mitchell Village in Port San Antonio will soon be renovated into workforce housing units, increasing the much-needed diversity of housing stock in the Southside.
Pending the finalization of a $20 million development deal between the Port and Dallas-based Granite Redevelopment Properties and locally-owned Mission DG, construction should begin by the end of this year and is expected to take about 18 months.
“We’re a catalyst for redevelopment and investment in the Southside,” said Port SA President and CEO Roland Mower on Monday. “The houses (and rental units) that we’re going to be developing is an upgrade to what’s available in the area.”
Mower said the Port’s investment should spark developers to build higher-end workforce housing and amenities in the Southside. The push for additional housing is also part of his plan to add 5,000 new jobs on-site by 2020. The more than 70 private and public organizations that reside in the 1,900-acre industrial complex currently employ about 12,000 people.
“Talk to anybody who is working at Port SA or even on Military bases (nearby) – a great majority of them travel long distances to work,” said Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4). “The inventory of middle or upper-middle echelon of housing — you just don’t find in many parts of the Southside.
“It’s finally not just about jobs,” said Saldaña of the Port’s and the City’s efforts to balance out work/live/play offerings. “That’s a new thing for our district. … It’s also a sign of a city trying to approach balanced growth.”
The southern portion of the Billy Mitchell complex, 82 units, were renovated about five years ago and have very high occupancy rates, according to Mower. “(That project was) a great way for us to prove that there is a market out there.”
The Port, which has led redevelopment efforts of the former Kelly Air Force Base for almost 20 years and purchased the complex in 2010, has set its sights on the remaining 43 acres of the complex.
Units range from two (1,000 sq. ft.) to four bedrooms (1,600 sq. ft.) with rents from $965 to $1,350 – with all utilities included. About half of the existing units are rented by employees/families that work at the Port.
There are about 17 England Town Homes, former officers quarters, in the port, but the Billy Mitchell complex represents 95% of existing housing space in the Port. While only 40% of Port SA is considered “developed” or “close to its final form,” Mower said, much of the remaining 60% lends itself to multi-family residential – it is still a largely industrial complex. He estimates that the Port could sustain about 600 to 700 units total after future “new build” projects.
But even outside of the Port, Saldaña said, there’s plenty of room for housing.
“Port SA is the Pearl 2.0 if you want to to look at that (for comparison),” Saldaña said. “It has that potential.
“There’s massive infill (opportunities) inside 410 and it’s been right under our noses for the last two decades,” Saldaña said.
Former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros is a partner of Mission DG, which is an affiliate of the San Antonio-based 210 Development Group.
“Our focus is to cultivate an environment that facilitates future growth at the community level by rebuilding our neighborhoods into livable and sustainable communities,” stated Cisneros, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, in a news release. “Our roots are in San Antonio, and we look forward to working closely with the Port and Granite to create a quality workforce housing project at Billy Mitchell Village that unlocks the area’s intrinsic value and promotes development at the Port.”
Boeing, Lockheed Martin, StandardAero, Xerox and several U.S. Department of Defense operations and contractors are among the Port’s tenants, but Mower said he expects people that work elsewhere will be attracted to the complex’s proximity to downtown.
“It’s a 10 minute drive to Southtown from (the Port),” Mower said, who lives in the Southtown neighborhood of Lavaca.
By partnering with Granite and Mission DG, the project will come online much faster than if Port SA took on the project on its own, said Mower. What might take two to three years for the Port to do alone will take about 18 months for the partnership to accomplish.
The units, which have varying construction/upgrade needs as some were used by the Air Force until 2010, will be available for lease as soon as they are completed on a case-by-case basis.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified the president and CEO of Port SA. It’s Roland Mower.
Top image: The townhomes in Billy Mitchell Village range from 2-4 bedrooms. The upcoming $20-million project will accelerate the rehabbing process and add new amenities. Photo courtesy of Port San Antonio.