Two neighboring Alta Vista homes, each built in the early 20th century, will be formally considered for historic landmark designation by the City, something that could affect a developer’s plan for the properties.
City Council on Thursday unanimously approved designating the houses at 800 W. Russell Pl. and 2511 N. Flores St. as historic.
Austin-based developer GCM Holdings, which owns both houses, initially eyed the structures for demolition to accommodate multifamily development on the property. Designating a structure as historic severely limits an owner’s ability to demolish it.
City Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) said he supports proceeding with designating the houses historic as a means of furthering neighborhood preservation. He said his district office plans to bring together the developer and neighbors to resolve their differences and see if they can agree on a way to redevelop the properties to benefit all.
“I think it’s a great example of how neighborhoods, the whole community, can come together to work on solutions,” Treviño said.
Council’s decision affirms a recommendation made by the City’s Historic and Design Review Commission in April in that both homes have historic significance and meet minimum criteria to be designated historic landmarks.
Now, the case goes to the City’s Zoning Commission, whose recommendations would go back to the Council for a final vote.
Teresa Niño, an at-large board member with the Alta Vista Neighborhood Association, asked the City earlier this year to officially review both houses for historic significance.
The one-story Craftsman bungalow house on West Russell was built in 1920 by Mary Delahay, a native Kansan who was a friend of President Lincoln’s family. She funded improvements to the West Russell/North Flores area during the neighborhood’s early years of development.
Alta Vista residents say the two-story modified Neoclassical house on North Flores, built in 1911, is an example of Foursquare architecture, a variation of the colonial revival style that prevailed with many homes in the early 20th century.
Stephanie Goldin, vice president of GCM Holdings, was the lone person at Thursday’s Council meeting to oppose designating both homes as historic landmarks.
However, Goldin said she and her mother, company President Lisa Goldin, look forward to working with Trevino and the neighborhood to try and redevelop the properties in a way “that benefits the neighborhood.”
Lisa Goldin told the Rivard Report she feels there’s potential for multifamily development in the immediate area.
“We’re here to bring multifamily neighbors helping neighbors — have more than one neighbor on a lot,” she said. “That’s what our vision is.”
Back in April, the City’s Board of Adjustment favored the Goldins in a case in which Monte Vista Terrace-area residents challenged City staff’s decision to allow their development of four four-story condos on a vacant lot in the 300 block of West Norwood Court.
Neighbors there argued the multistory condos would be incompatible with surrounding one- and two-story homes.
The five people who spoke Thursday before Council in favor of the historic landmark designations in Alta Vista included a representative of the San Antonio Conservation Society. The requested designations also have support from the Alta Vista Neighborhood Association.
Backers of the designations said the two homes are worthy of preservation. But neighborhood residents also said they are not opposed to new development so long as it does not disrupt the community’s character.
Alta Vista is a neighborhood conservation district, a zoning overlay that allows certain types of construction. But many residents there have expressed frustration, in recent years, with demolitions and real estate speculators.
Niño said demolition of the houses on West Russell and North Flores would destroy examples of architecture and fabric that helped to shape Alta Vista. She also called North Flores a gateway to San Pedro Springs Park, the oldest public park in Texas.
“In allowing the process to continue, we would be living up to the SA Tomorrow plan in which the No. 1 goal is to preserve the character and integrity of our San Antonio neighborhoods,” she said.
Resident and architect David Bogle said he supports preservation. But he added: “Alta Vista recognizes in the properties the potential for sensitive, compatible redevelopment.”