Dan Markson, a respected pioneer in affordable housing development in San Antonio who worked to add supportive services for residents, died unexpectedly on Saturday. He was 59.
Markson served as executive vice president of development for The NRP Group, a national housing developer, and was a co-founder of its Texas office. For 30 years, Markson led affordable housing development efforts throughout San Antonio and Texas and spearheaded the creation of over 20,000 apartment homes in four states, more than 17,000 of them in Texas.
He was buried Monday at Temple Beth-El Memorial Park in a service led by Rabbi Mara Nathan, in conjunction with the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning of San Antonio and Rabbi Chaim Block. Markson was survived by his 4-year-old son. No cause of death was released by The NRP Group.
“Our sympathy and prayers are with Dan’s family, which he valued above all things,” said David Heller, NRP co-founder and CEO, in a statement announcing Markson’s death. “This is also an indescribable loss to NRP and a profound loss to the affordable housing industry overall.”
Markson is credited with the idea of combining affordable housing with supportive services as a pathway of opportunity for residents of communities he developed.
“Dan’s passion for creating top-quality housing for people of all incomes, and his efforts to add supportive services to improve the lives of vulnerable families – with novel concepts like ‘Homework First’ and many other programs – have created an important catalyst to continued work in this area,” Heller stated.
Such programs are fundamental in the residential programming that nonprofit housing developer Merced Housing Texas created in conjunction with Markson and The NRP Group. Merced President Kristin Davila said her organization and Markson worked closely together to build 176 units of affordable housing.
“We are deeply saddened by this loss,” Davila said. “Dan, like the [congregations of] sisters who formed Merced, understood that in order for communities to thrive, residents need more than an affordable roof over their head. Dan recognized the value of supportive services for residents, and in particular for resident children.”
For those children, Markson organized annual summer field trips to the state capitol, she said, where the children met lawmakers and participated in mock legislative sessions.
Markson’s death comes a critical time in housing development as the city grapples with market demand for urban residential options as well as gentrification, housing affordability, and density issues. Assistant City Manager Lori Houston said Markson was a mentor to her as former Mayor Julián Castro’s “decade of downtown” unfolded.
“Dan was my housing expert,” said Houston, who previously served as director of the Center City Development & Operations Department. “Any time I had questions about how a finance program worked or the future of housing finance, Dan was my go-to guy. I truly believe we’re going to definitely notice Dan’s absence in the housing market in San Antonio.”
Markson led projects that delivered modern housing to downtown San Antonio and transformed the urban core, including the Cevallos Lofts, the Tobin Lofts at San Antonio College, Blue Star Arts Complex housing, and the Red Berry Estate.
“None of those projects was easy, but he truly believed they were the right thing for San Antonio and San Antonio could support them,” Houston said. “Dan believed in San Antonio more than anyone I knew, and he would take on the most complicated, difficult deals just because he truly believed it was the right thing for San Antonio.”
Markson is responsible for much of the city’s affordable housing units, but market-rate developments and units as well, and earned the respect of local developers for his innovative approaches to financing and diligence in closing deals.
Area Real Estate Principal David Adelman released a statement on behalf of San Antonio’s chapter of the Urban Land Institute, which he founded, saying Markson was an outstanding member of the real estate community.
Adelman also called him “a true civic statesman and a devout member of our Jewish faith community.”
“If you were ever fortunate enough to have been invited into his historic Monte Vista home you also knew what a gracious and complete host he always was,” Adelman said. “His hospitality and attention to detail were of the first class.”
Markson served on the board of Temple Beth-El and is a former board member of Jewish Family Service of San Antonio. He recently was presented with the Chabad Center for Jewish Life’s 2018 Distinguished Community Service Award.
Adelman said Markson was committed to research on Jewish ancestral heritage of immigrants who settled in Nuevo León, Mexico, during dangerous times abroad.
“He firmly believes that so many of these Jews converted to Christianity but still have memories and traditions dating back to their ancestors’ original heritage,” Adelman said. “I hope that someday his vision and dream will be realized and that some of those folks may be able to reconnect with their history.”
Rabbi Block, who shared with Markson a family history in the Chabad movement, said Markson was very committed to studying the Torah and finishing the Talmud, the primary source of Jewish religious law and Jewish theology.
“But he was such a multi-faceted guy who lived in so many different worlds,” the rabbi said. “He was so wholesome and had so many Jewish and non-Jewish friends alike. Whoever he connected with walked away impacted and inspired. He had that special gift of communicating passion and love to whoever he interacted with.”
Developments in which Markson was involved have provided the foundation for greater public and private investment, which has led to more high quality, sustainable, affordable communities, said State Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio).
“Dan’s efforts in San Antonio have changed the face of our city,” he said. “From the redevelopment of San Juan Homes, which included the demolition of decaying public housing and rebuilding of a mixed-income community, to the construction of the initial residential community at Brooks … during the 2007 economic downturn, these developments have allowed neighborhoods to redefine themselves.”
In addition to his role at The NRP Group, Markson served as the national director of National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) for the Greater San Antonio Builders Association. He served on the Federal Government Affairs and Housing Finance Committee of the NAHB and as a director and president of the Texas Association of Affordable Housing Providers.
He was a state director of the Texas Association of Builders (TAB) and 2003 Chairman of the TAB Multifamily Council. In addition, Markson was a trustee of the NAHB Multifamily Council, as well as a founder in 1994, and a chairman of the NAHB Housing Credit Group – a key advocate for Low Income Housing Tax Credits. He was past chair of the NAHB Multifamily Finance Subcommittee and was reappointed as chair for 2010-11.
“While his professional successes are well-documented, it was his love for his son that drove Dan in every aspect of his life,” said Andres Andujar, Hemisfair CEO. “In conversation, Dan would refer to his ancestors by name back to the 15th century and took extreme care to teach his son about his amazing family history. He had an innate ability to make those around him feel at home, and some of us most fortunate became his family.”