The City’s Zoning Commission unanimously voted Tuesday to rezone four acres of land on Broadway Street north of Alamo Heights to accommodate a local developer’s proposal to replace existing condominiums with an apartment complex and office space.
After scaling down its initial design, Embrey Partners won over more area residents with a proposal featuring decreased zoning density and heights of the envisioned structures. But other neighbors remain skeptical of the project, specifically its potential impact on parking, drainage, and compatibility with the neighborhood.
Embrey plans to move its corporate headquarters from its existing location, near Loop 410 and Nacogdoches Road, and become the anchor tenant at its proposed mixed-use structure at 7600 Broadway St.
As part of an effort to gain more support from neighbors over the past week, Embrey officials said they would seek a less dense residential rezoning category.
The Commission on Tuesday approved multifamily zoning that allows no more than 50 units per acre. The vote included a condition permitting a maximum of three stories of office space.
Embrey now envisions 227 units at its proposed apartment complex, down from 266 included in the initial proposal.
According to an updated site plan presented to the Zoning Commission on Tuesday, three stories of office space would sit below three stories of apartments at the structure facing Broadway Street near Nacogdoches Road.
The six stories facing Broadway Street would be the development’s maximum height while the rest of the apartment building, bound by Nottingham Drive to the north, would be three stories tall.
The property currently hosts 66 condo units that were constructed in the early 1960s. Citing an absence of on-site property management, years of deferred maintenance, and lack of funds for needed repairs, the condo owners have agreed to sell their units to Embrey.
Bill Kaufman, president of Kaufman Killen, the local law firm representing Embrey, presented a number of infrastructure improvements the developer pledges to fund around the property.
Those improvements, pending City approval, would include widening Broadway from four to five lanes between Nacogdoches Road and Nottingham Drive, a 10-foot multi-use path around the development, turn lanes, and signal upgrades.
The City’s Planning Commission last week voted to amend the Northeast Inner Loop Neighborhood Plan, changing the property’s future land use from neighborhood commercial to high-density residential. The property in question is on the western edge of Oak Park-Northwood neighborhood.
Kaufman called the proposal ideal for the property. He said the zoning and land use changes would keep the area mainly residential and accommodate more appropriate office and commercial use in the future. Many Embrey employees already live in the area, he said. “It’s home for all of us, and we know the neighborhood very well.”
Kaufman said Embrey has worked to satisfy neighbors’ concerns about parking and setbacks, too. Parking spaces would be built on the development’s interior, invisible from the surrounding streets.
The Oak Park Northwood Neighborhood Association board has endorsed Embrey’s plan, Board President Ben Schoenbaum told zoning commissioners.
Schoenbaum said he initially opposed the project, but Embrey’s proactivity and willingness to make concessions swayed his opinion.
“I’ve come full circle to support this,” he said.
Among the dozen or so neighbors who spoke during the meeting, Schoenbaum was not the only one whose opinion about the proposal changed from dissent to support.
But other residents remained unconvinced. Frank DeGrasse said he appreciated the developer listening to neighbors’ concerns, but “even though concessions have been made, this project is still out of character with the neighborhood.”
Alison Von Hartmann-Engel said more than 260 Oak Park residents signed a petition opposing Embrey’s previous multifamily rezoning proposal for 7600 Broadway. Many area residents worry about traffic and other potential impacts, she said.
But given the decreased density, she and many of her neighbors would be willing to drop their opposition so long as structural heights are restricted in the rezoning vote. “These restrictions are important to the neighbors toward maintaining the character of their neighborhood,” Von Hartmann-Engel said.
Discussion among the commissioners was brief, and they had few questions about the requested rezoning.
“It’s such a beautiful neighborhood and it’s a wonderful design,” Commissioner Patricia Gibbons said. “I think it will do astounding things for the neighborhood.”
Embrey representatives anticipate the City Council seeing their full project proposal in early August.