Public Funds OK’d for River Improvements at Borden Dairy Site

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Courtesy / Studio Schafer

A rendering of the mixed-use project at 815 E. Ashby Pl. (left) next to the former Borden Dairy plant.

Bexar County commissioners on Tuesday joined the City in agreeing to development incentives for a mixed-use project at the former Borden Dairy plant just north of downtown.

Commissioners approved an economic development incentive agreement that provides tax abatements estimated at $1.3 million for Embrey Partners to invest $80 million in a multifamily housing development located at 815 E. Ashby Place, and $3 million in public improvements along the River Walk.

The agreement includes a 10-year, 60 percent tax abatement on eligible capital investment and a public infrastructure grant of $750,000.

Embrey is working with Area Real Estate “to revitalize this important property that serves as a very visible welcome to downtown San Antonio coming from the north on U.S. [Highway] 281,” said Jimmy McCloskey, executive vice president of development at Embrey, by email following the decision by commissioners.

“We will make river improvements and promote walkable neighborhoods with sidewalks and an elevated pedestrian bridge that connects the Tobin Hill community to the river and the Brackenridge Park Trail,” he said. “We have worked collaboratively with governmental agencies, the Tobin Hill Neighborhood Association and the San Antonio River Authority to ensure a careful design that thoughtfully integrates our apartment community into the context of the Tobin Hill community.”

On Oct. 3, the City Council approved a development agreement with Embrey through the Midtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone that provides $4 million for public improvements to the river frontage.

The Borden Park project will sit two blocks north of the Pearl on over 5 acres adjacent to the River Walk and connect the Tobin Hill neighborhood to the river. In addition to trails and a pedestrian bridge across the river, four billboards facing Highway 281 are to be removed.

The site has previously served as a storage facility, which will be demolished and replaced with a five-story multifamily housing development and parking structure. Ten percent of the 344 units will be offered as affordable at 80 percent of the area median income.

During the meeting on Tuesday, Commissioners Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) and Justin Rodriguez (Pct. 2) requested more information from staffers on how the county incentivizes future projects and the affordable housing ratio.

“Going forward, what we must look at as a court is how do we not only incentivize highest rent and mortgage, also known as ‘market rate,’ but how do we get to the workforce development housing for the 80 percent of folks who are working in San Antonio to also enjoy our core,” Calvert said.

The historic Borden building, an Art Deco style building constructed in 1933 and considered a landmark located at 857 E. Ashby Place, will be repurposed for office and commercial use.

The project received conceptual approval from the Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) in April.

The president of the San Antonio Conservation Society, Susan Beavin, supported the group’s HDRC application to rehabilitate the Borden building and remove the unsightly billboards and storage units that detract from the city’s appearance.

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