Land near the historic Hays Street Bridge will be developed for a low-income apartment building called Hays Street Lofts. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

A Missouri-based affordable housing developer has plans to build a 131-unit low-income apartment building near the historic Hays Street Bridge, but the specifics of the plan depend on the developer’s bid to receive competitive tax credits.

The Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association voted 18-8 during its general membership meeting Monday night to support the project.

The neighborhood group will send a letter of support to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA), which will select just four projects out of dozens submitted from across the region for a 9 percent tax credit. The tax credit offsets a portion of the developer’s federal tax liability in exchange for affordable housing.

San Antonio City Council will also have an opportunity to write a letter of support or one of “no objection.” Projects with letters of support receive more points.

Some area residents were concerned that the four-story building would interfere with views – of downtown from the bridge and of the bridge from the neighborhood – and bring increased congestion to the historic neighborhood.

Representatives of VCZ Development told residents that the building won’t rise above the existing tree line, preserving surrounding views.

“We resolved that issue,” said Jose Gonzalez, a local development consultant working with VCZ and its associated companies, Willhoit Management and Zimmerman Properties Construction. VCZ plans to build and manage the apartments in perpetuity. “From the site itself today, you can’t see the metal structure of the bridge itself. … Buildings and trees block the bridge.”

The apartment building will comply with parking requirements, but Gonzalez said he expects that some residents won’t need parking.

The 2.5-acre project, named Hays Street Lofts, is located at 715 Chestnut St. If approved by the TDHCA, the building would have studio units as well as one- and two- bedroom apartments.

Thirteen of the 131 units would be rented at market rate; $930-$1,340 per month. Fourteen of the units would be reserved for residents who make 30 percent or less than the area median income (AMI), with rent at roughly $330-$415. The remaining units will be reserved for people who make less than 50 and 60 percent AMI.

“Given the influx of new employment both in midtown on Broadway and in the East Side … there’s just a lot of new development coming in that is employing people who are priced out [of the neighborhood],” Gonzalez said. “This can be hopefully a counter-balance to the market-rate product [going up in the area].”

The developer also plans to build 18-20 townhomes for sale on the property. VCZ wants to buy the lot on which the now-closed Bexar Pub restaurant and bar is located, but they were unable to locate the owner to make an offer, Gonzalez said.

The historically neglected, low-income East Side has been the focus of public and private investment in recent years, sparking renewed interest in its historic housing stock. But neighbors are wary of new development that drives up their property tax bills.

A controversial plan to build a five-story apartment building right next to the building received criticism for blocking views of and from the bridge, but a deal was struck to move that project and instead build a park next to the bridge.

The Hays Street Loft project is about one block west from the main section of the bridge. The developers said making sure the neighborhood association was informed about its project is a key component.

“They have been above board and transparent throughout [the process],” Arvis Holland, the association’s interim president, said of the developers.

If the TDHCA does not select this project for the tax credit, Gonzalez said VCZ will still try to develop affordable housing there through other subsidy programs.

Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@sareport.org