A local housing authority is seeking feedback from San Antonio residents on four different design options for Alazán Courts, the city’s oldest public housing complex.
Previously slated for demolition and mixed-income redevelopment, the courts will now be renovated in order to keep them available for the community’s poorest residents.
As part of that process, Opportunity Home, formerly known as the San Antonio Housing Authority, launched a community feedback survey online Wednesday; the survey is also available at the Alazán Community Center.
Because the housing units, built in 1939, are much smaller than modern standards, Opportunity Home will need to increase square footage per unit and construct more buildings or floors.
Right now there are 501 units in the West Side complex and the average resident’s yearly income is less than $8,800. The current plan is to provide between 577 and 625 units and keep all rent income-based.
Planners estimate that the agency will have to build another 240 units and remove 74 units within the 100-year floodplain of Alazán Creek to meet that goal.
The four design options are meant to test different ways to make the project work, said Seema Kairam, associate and design lead at Able City, the local architectural and design firm hired by Opportunity Home. “We ask specific questions about individual strategies, rather than have participants vote on one option or another. The final design will most likely be a hybrid of the different strategies proposed.”
None of the proposals are set in stone, Kairam emphasized. “These are just a jumping-off point.”
The first option would prioritize preserving all existing buildings along the streets while adding three-story buildings; the second preserves the buildings in the core of the complex; the third preserves most buildings along the street but limits all new buildings to two stories; and the fourth maximizes green space.
All of the options include plans to increase greenspace and would add 130 units to the adjacent Apache Courts footprint and on what is now a baseball field behind the Alazán-Apache community center.
The survey asks for opinions on what elements of the site should be prioritized or preserved, unit size, where to place new buildings, park amenities and more.
Opportunity Home canceled plans last year to raze Alazán and partner with developer NRP Group to replace it with mixed-income housing amid protests by residents and housing advocates concerned that existing residents would be displaced and unable to afford the housing that would replace the original apartments.
Opportunity Home instead hired Able City, Alamo Architects and Economic Planning Systems to develop a master plan with the community for the aging apartment complex. The feedback collected will inform the team’s final design direction for the master plan.
Last year, the agency estimated that the redevelopment project would cost more than $145 million, but officials have said a final cost can’t be calculated until a master plan is completed.
The planning process kicked off in February with a “listening and learning” phase with consultants, Alazán Courts residents and area stakeholders. Several resident and community input meetings followed, including one that allowed residents to use Legos to solve design challenges, and were used to inform the survey and design options.
A community meeting to get more feedback on the design options, hosted by the agency and its consultants, will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. in Tafolla Middle School’s cafeteria, 1303 W César E. Chávez Blvd.
The feedback phase of the process will conclude in early September and the agency expects to unveil the final design with an open house event on Oct. 8.
The survey will be open through Friday, Sept. 9.