When the owners of a 5-acre site on the near East Side unveiled plans in late 2019 for the vacant property next to Sunset Station, they called it a mixed-use development with office and retail plus plentiful urban green space. 

Now the property is about to be sold and its new owners envision a residential development instead. 

Two years into a pandemic that continues to alter the course of commercial development, Fort Worth-based Vaquero Ventures requested conceptual approval Wednesday from the Historic and Design Review Commission for a five-story, multifamily structure and parking garage at 1220 E. Commerce St.

Vaquero is under contract to buy the property from Quadrant Investment Properties, which initially planned the massive mixed-use development they called East End.

The former home of the catering firm RK Group, the property is situated at Cherry Street, alongside railroad tracks in the St. Paul Square district and within walking distance of the Alamodome. 

The multifamily development would have at least 340 studio, one- and two-bedroom units, amenity space on the top floor and a rooftop pool with views of the downtown skyline, according to design plans by Dallas-based Merriman Anderson Architects. 

A rendering shows a rooftop pool at a proposed five-story, multifamily apartment building at 1220 E. Commerce St.
A rooftop pool is one amenity proposed for the planned five-story, multifamily apartment building at 1220 E. Commerce St. Credit: Courtesy / Merriman Anderson Architects

Commissioners pulled the project from the consent agenda for discussion after a public comment raised the issue of excessive noise from trains disturbing residents in the development. 

Also nearby is The Espee at Sunset Station, a covered amphitheater that hosts live events. 

Brandon Behrens, vice president of development for Vaquero, said the developer anticipates the need to mitigate noise, especially on the west side of the structure.

The building is being designed with materials to reduce some of the noise, he said, adding that sound and acoustic engineers will conduct a study. 

The design review panel asked the developer whether he anticipates requesting tax credits for the project or working with the San Antonio Housing Trust to provide affordable units. 

Ashley Farrimond, an attorney representing the developer, said it was too early in the project timeline to answer that question. 

“We don’t know yet who the target market will be for this project,” she said. “We’re working through that, so we’re not quite there.”

City staff recommended approval of the project with stipulations advising the team to use high-quality construction materials and install windows at a depth of at least 2 inches. With those conditions agreed upon, commissioners voted unanimously to approve the project. 

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.