Vacant Lots in Dignowity Hill Will Be Filled

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The vacant lots at 914 and 916 N. Mesquite St. in Dignowity Hill. Courtesy image.

The vacant lots at 914 and 916 N. Mesquite St. in Dignowity Hill. Courtesy image.

Three vacant lots in the Dignowity Hill Historic District on the city's near-Eastside will once again have single family homes built to replace the structures demolished years ago.

The Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) approved a two-story house at 315 Lamar St., and conceptually approved both a single-family residence on a conjoined lot at 914 and 916 N. Mesquite St. and a four-structure development that will fill two lots at the corner of 532 Dawson St. and 417 N. Mesquite St.

The two-story house on Lamar Street received final approval by the HDRC after the applicant, Oscar Santana, detached the garage from the house to be more consistent with the flow of the neighborhood, set the second story addition to the rear of the house, and simplified the composition of the roof.

Liz Franklin of the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association Architectural Review Committee said the height, massing, and scale of the house was not consistent with the other houses in the neighborhood.

HDRC found that the second floor of the house was shorter than other homes on the block, and approved the structure.

A more contemporary design for the conjoined lot on Mesquite Street (see top photo) received conceptual approval.

The original proposal included a primary house and a detached guest house that was set further back on the lot. HDRC decided that to be consistent with neighborhood guidelines, the guest house would need to be placed at the top of the lot next to the main house, or it would need to become an attached unit.

Commissioner Tim Cone said the placement of the guest house did not "fit with the rhythm of the neighborhood."

Lewis McNeel, a close neighbor of the property and a member of the neighborhood's Architectural Review Committee, voiced his full support of the project.

"We think it is an ideal way to treat an empty lot in our neighborhood," he said. "We want to hold this up as the model with what to do with empty lots in the neighborhood."

The single-family residence and guest house on a conjoined lot at 914 and 916 N. Mesquite St. Courtesy image.

The single-family residence and guest house on a conjoined lot at 914 and 916 N. Mesquite St. Courtesy image.

According to a letter from the Dignowity Hill Architectural Review Committee, McNeel said the materials to be used complement the neighborhood. He stated the "final appearance appears to be muted (and) ... allow the surrounding historic structures to remain in central focus."

Two other neighborhood members offered statements in support of the design.

Some of the commissioners did not agree with some of the modern architectural elements of the design. Commissioners Betty Feldman and Tim Cone agreed that the architecture of the house, including the horizontal windows on its façade, did not match those of the existing homes in the neighborhood.

Michael Britt, the property owner and a Lake/Flato architect, agreed to attach the guest house to the primary structure and tweak the design of the windows. HDRC conceptually approved the house with the agreement that Britt would join the two structures and refine the architectural design of the front of the house.

A four-unit complex at Dawson and North Mesquite Streets received conceptual approval from HDRC. Originally, the complex included five units, but after several HDRC meetings, applicant Logan Fullmer scaled back the design to include four separate housing units.

Both Franklin and McNeel spoke against the design. Franklin said the project's density was too large for the neighborhood.

"We want thoughtful development and infill," she said, citing the units to acre ratio was too dense for the lot.

"Dignowity Hill historic district is a desirable place to be," she said, noting the increased number of HDRC agenda items in Dignowity Hill.

The four-structure development at 532 Dawson St. and 417 N. Mesquite St. Courtesy image.

The four-structure development at 532 Dawson St. and 417 N. Mesquite St. Courtesy image.

McNeel said the project did not fit in with the "grain and character" of the neighborhood.

"We want to make sure that when new development comes to our neighborhood, which we welcome, that it fits artfully into the grain of the neighborhood," he said.

He said the project's window to solid wall proportion were also out of place in the neighborhood.

Project partner George Herrera said he spoke with community members in the area who said they were in favor of developing vacant lots in the neighborhood. Fullmer and Herrera had informal face-to-face meetings with nearby neighbors, many of whom signed a petition in favor of the project.

"We are trying to make this project a single-family lot development in order to get people to take ownership of their community and not just have passive interest as living in a typical apartment," Herrera said.

Fullmer and Herrera said they met with Councilmember Alan Warrick II, the district's representative, to refine the complex's design before Wednesday's HDRC meeting. Herrera said the project's plan fits within Warrick's plan "to rid the area of vacant lots as it helps on a cyclical basis to bring new bodies to the area, reduce crime, (and) increase public works."

Fullmer said the four units, which do not have expansive yards because of the lot size, will be desirable to Millennials and retirees who do not have the time and resources to maintain a yard.


*Featured/top image: The vacant lots at 914 and 916 N. Mesquite St. in Dignowity Hill. Courtesy image.

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The G-card: Defining Gentrification in Dignowity Hill

9 thoughts on “Vacant Lots in Dignowity Hill Will Be Filled

  1. Great to see all the development happening in Dignowity Hill! I’m excited about the variety of designs. New construction can be tricky in a historic district but it seems like some of the more important elements of the guidelines are being enforced. The biggest thing for me is to allow the units to blend in with historic houses, because of the sheer number of vacant lots throughout the neighborhood, it’s important that allow designs to be different without them distracting too much. Driving through King William and Lavaca there are tons of more modern houses that fit in very well with the neighborhood overall, even enhance it, I’d love to see this continue in #DiggyHill Dignowity Hill Historic District

  2. Of the cases that were heard by HDRC yesterday, one is of critical importance to the Dignowity Hill Historic District and is certainly a sign of the construction and financial lending times: increased density at Mesquite and Dawson Streets.
    It seems simple that if the neighborhood has vacant lots and we want infill that filling those lots to the brim will solve everything. It’s really not that simple and the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association Architectural Review Committee sees this as more than the simple quantitative act of filling spaces. We see this for the reality it is: historic district infill AND neighborhood rebuilding. The actual four 2-story units on 7800 square feet of land case would be very different than the construction drawings and renderings. The predominant building type for neighboring houses is modest single-story bungalows and vernacular houses on spacious lots so how new infill construction complements or blends with the existing structures is a thoughtful endeavor and we’ve been requesting more thought on this one for a long time.

    The DHNA ARC has been clear and public for some time now that we support infill of higher densities than those that currently exist, and we have a record of doing so. The neighborhood residential density is approximately 2-8 units per acre and the ARC has supported projects with as much as 12-17 units per acre. This particular one tops out at over 22 units per acre and honestly, creates a very dense housing complex in an otherwise, low density setting.

  3. Wow–I’ve never even heard of this historical review board, but it sounds like they need to be knocked off their high horse. Their nitpicking is absurd and a waste of time. The value you can get from flipping or building a house in DHill is already pretty limited relative to other areas, and they’re cutting into that further by these stupid redesigns which are expensive and time consuming. The fact that they have these strict cookie cutter design elements people must follow is hilarious given that many of the existing structures are dilapidated shacks. They should be grateful that any of these people want to put the time and energy into satisfying their ridiculous mandates and still contribute to the development of this area. These people need to get lives.

  4. Some folks were interested in what I said in my interview about the HDRC hearing. I mentioned that they cut out the most important part of my statement.

    Susanne reflects the mentality that my statement was intended to combat.

    We are in a position that allows us to choose what our neighborhood looks like. We have worked to mold our own communities. We have something that is worthy of TRUE investment, and now, we are told to basically “STFU and take what we give you…” No.

    I spoke in favor of Alamo Brewery in many instances. Ask them yourself. I’ve personally spoken in support of several new housing developments coming into Dignowity Hill. I’m a home owner in Dignowity Hill. I’m the VP of the Dignowity Hill NA. I’m a third generation Eastsider. I won’t allow half-ass, profiteering developers to come in without a concern about my community and throw down whatever makes them the largest amount of money, with no concern about the future of that community.

    It’s easy to comment about something like this from a distance. I invite and encourage ANYONE who has an issue with these open negotiations to come out to any of our NA meetings. Every third Monday of the month at Ella Austin. We’d be delighted to speak with you. 🙂

    • Brian, I was going to respond to the above comment… but your words carry much more weight and relevance. I completely agree with what you have said.

      I have always wondered why we San Antonians have such a low self-esteem. We have this mindset that we can’t demand (or even ask) for better. We don’t require the WalMarts or Starbucks of the world to do something nice like they already do in other communities. Heaven forbid we try and save a tree or require developers to put in useable sidewalks or install the proper depth of topsoil.

      Let’s have smart growth… not just growth because we’re scared it might be the only growth.

  5. “According to a letter from the Dignowity Hill Architectural Review Committee, McNeel said the materials to be used compliment the neighborhood.”

    Should it be complement in this context?

  6. More and more houses that people in the neighborhood cant afford. I guess my husband and i will have to relocate. I’ve Been living on Dawson for 15 yrs. Its great to see the revitalization but its hurting the pockets of long time residents. My mom has been unemployed for 1 yr now and her taxes went up $900 this year.

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