Scott Ball / Rivard Report
The majority of Highland Park residents who attended a Wednesday night community meeting had a clear message for the developer planning a 90-unit, mixed-income apartment complex in the neighborhood: We don't want it.
The Cleveland-based NRP Group first proposed the Piedmont Lofts as a three- to four-story, 90-unit complex with stucco exteriors to be built on the lot of the soon-to-be-sold Moose Lodge, an event and bingo hall at 826 E. Highland Blvd.
Jason Arechiga, vice president of development at the NRP Group, told the Rivard Report via text message that the proposal may change to a two-story, 58-unit complex with a Craftsman-style exterior.
NRP Group organized the meeting to collect community input that could help shape the design plan, Arechiga said. "We're here as a company trying to work with the neighborhood instead of just plopping [in] whatever we want."
But many of the around 150 residents of the near-Southeast side neighborhood argued the multi-story, $15.5 million apartment building would fundamentally alter the neighborhood filled with single-family homes.
"To inject a large number of people into a neighborhood who are renting, some with various means of assistance, is going to drastically change the character of the neighborhood," Highland Park Neighborhood Association President Gregory Ripps said. "We're going to see what we can do to stop this."
Some residents said they didn't want a multi-story development towering over their backyards, while others said they didn't want to see any kind of new development. Several neighbors took issue with the proposed addition of low-income development. NRP Group is seeking $10.8 million in state tax incentives for the mixed-income project, Arechiga said.
The City's Comprehensive Plan Committee on Thursday advanced the NRP Group's proposal for full City Council consideration on Feb. 8. Council could then formulate a resolution of support for the state tax credits.
Daniel B. Markson, senior vice president of development at the NRP Group, sent a letter on Jan. 4 to the Highland Park Neighborhood Association describing the complex as being "comprised of approximately 90 units of which 80 will be for low-income tenants."
"That right there grabbed my attention right away," said Michael Carreon, a 12-year Highland Park resident who learned about the meeting from a Nextdoor post Ripps created.
Ripps lamented losing the Moose Lodge and said he didn't know the owner, the Loyal Order of the Moose, an international fraternal and service organization, planned on selling.
Former Moose Lodge Governor Henry Peterson told attendees that the order chose to sell to the NRP Group due to the company's commitment to working with the community when developing the project.
According to Arechiga, several development firms clamored to win more than $10 million in competitive housing tax credits to develop the lot.
The NRP Group has developed, constructed, and managed 17 multi-family affordable housing developments in San Antonio, according to information provided by the group. The company also developed 14 market-rate multifamily complexes, including the Kennedy at Brooks and the Cevallos Lofts in Southtown.
Arechiga explained during the meeting that rent in a 90-unit complex would be tiered: 10 percent of the units would be reserved for those making 30 percent of the area-median income or less; 40 percent would be reserved for those making 50 percent of the area-median income or less; and 50 percent would be reserved for those making 60 percent of the area-median income or less. Ten units would be sold at market rate.
The area median income in Bexar County is $63,500.
Carreon expressed concern about how the development would affect rising home values in the neighborhood, and wondered if it would threaten the possibility of it becoming a historic neighborhood. Since 2013, the value of his home increased by more than $26,000, according to the Bexar County Appraisal District.
He expressed frustration that Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) did not attend the meeting, but gave a message to her staffer, Salvador Valdez.
"As you can see, nobody wants this," Carreon told Valdez in front of the entire assembly. "So go back and tell Rebecca that we don't want it."
Arechiga said he left the meeting with "a sour taste" in his mouth due to disparaging comments some residents made about him and low-income residents.