A northbound view of 7600 Broadway, where Embrey Partners proposes redeveloping existing condominiums into a mix of office space (seen here) and residential. Credit: Courtesy / Embrey Partners

A local developer sees rezoning property for a mixed-use redevelopment on Broadway as a benefit to both the community and the company, but the Oak Park/Northwood Neighborhood Association has not yet taken a position on the project.

The City’s Planning Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved Embrey Partners‘ request to amend the Northeast Inner Loop Neighborhood Plan. If approved by the Zoning Commission and eventually City Council, the land use of lots at 7600 Broadway and 7538 Broadway would change from neighborhood commercial to high-density residential.

A 66-unit condominium complex, built in 1963, currently occupies 7600 Broadway St. Embrey proposed rezoning the four-acre property from commercial to multifamily with a conditional use for offices. The property is on the western edge of the Oak Park/Northwood boundary.

The developer envisions a mixed-use community featuring an apartment complex and 35,000 square feet of office space, anchored by Embrey’s new corporate headquarters.

The developer set up a project website to share its vision for the property with the public. Preliminary conceptual renderings show a residential structure not exceeding three stories facing Nacogdoches Road and Nottingham Drive, and a seven-story office structure facing Broadway.

A view across Nottingham Drive of 7600 Broadway, where Embrey Partners proposes redeveloping existing condominiums into a mix of multifamily residential (seen here) and office space. Credit: Courtesy / Embrey Partners

The property is not far from the company’s existing corporate office near Loop 410 and Nacogdoches Road. The property is just north of Alamo Heights, and lies across from a number of commercial and small office spaces, including an H-E-B-anchored shopping center.

“We want to make something that’s walkable, inside [Loop] 410, near H-E-B – it’s a great transition from residential to commercial,” said John Kirk, Embrey’s executive vice president for development.

Embrey approached the 7600 Broadway Condominium Association in fall 2016, asking whether owners would sell their units. By fall 2017, all condo owners had agreed to sell.

Years of deferred maintenance and lack of financial reserves have kept condo owners from upgrading the property, condo association President Richard Sparr said. Walkways are cracked, some railings need replacing, and a tornado that hit in spring 2017 damaged a fence. Most of the units are now occupied by renters.

“Everybody was happy to work with Embrey. Everyone entered into individual contracts [with Embrey],” Sparr said. “Behind all that was the realization that this was an older property.”

Kirk said the developer did not want to stick with the current commercial zoning, which allows a wide variety of commercial development, such as a high-density, multistory office building, liquor stores, and gas stations.

Embrey initially considered applying for Infill Development Zoning. But after talking with neighbors, the company opted to go with the multifamily zoning to limit commercial use on the property, and to increase the residential space.

Embrey said it has reduced the proposed apartment complex density to 266 units and provided answers to neighbors’ questions about setback needs, tree preservation, and estimated traffic impact.

“We’ve taken our time to get input from the [Oak Park/Northwood] neighborhood association,” Kirk said. “We did our legwork before submitting for rezoning. We’re doing something that’s respectful to the neighborhood, something we can be proud of.”

The project would include a pocket park at Nacogdoches and Nottingham, 10-foot-wide sidewalks on all sides, increased setbacks, an enclosed parking garage, and $1 million in proposed public improvements, all funded by Embrey.

Those improvements would include an extended turn lane on Broadway between Nacogdoches and Nottingham, and crosswalk and signal upgrades at the surrounding intersections.

A preliminary site plan of Embrey Partners’ proposed redevelopment of 7600 Broadway. Broadway, Nacogdoches Road and Nottingham streets bound the property. Credit: Courtesy / Embrey Partners

Embrey is planning what it calls “high-end luxury finishes” in the apartment units, and amenities such as a rooftop pool, conference rooms, a golf simulator, concierge, and valet services. Rents at the apartment complex would range between $3,000 and $4,000 monthly, according to the project website.

But while Oak Park/Northwood Neighborhood Association members have met with Embrey, the group has yet to arrive at a consensus on the project. Association Board President Ben Schoenbaum said via text on Monday that he would wait to issue a formal statement because neighbors are still mulling things over, adding that “we are at a critical point right now.”

Samantha Wickwire, zoning director and policy advisor for City Councilman Clayton Perry (D10), said the Council office has heard mixed feedback on the proposed project.

“Many people have reached out to our office in support of the project because they are excited about replacing the ‘falling down’ condos that are currently there,” she said. “I’ve heard positive comments on the proposed design and the addition of the pocket park. On the other hand, I have heard concerns about increased traffic in the area, and the height/density of the project.”

Sparr, who rents out his condo and lives in a Oak Park/Northwood home, described the project as a win-win for the community.

“It’ll revitalize the area. It’ll increase [property] values,” he said. “It’s kind of a godsend that Embrey has come here.”

Sparr said he understands if some neighbors have concerns about high-density redevelopment projects, but he hopes his neighbors realize what could happen with the property if it is not improved, or if the existing zoning remains. Sparr suggested the site could instead end up accommodating a less desirable development.

“I’ve told [the association] this is their opportunity to have input on the project, for them to say what they’d like to see happen,” Perry said.

The councilman said he encourages neighborhood residents to understand the potential for undesirable development at the property, given its location and current zoning, if neighboring residents do not provide input on what they would want there.

“We’re going to continue to see this across San Antonio, because developers are looking for green space closer to downtown as San Antonio keeps growing,” he said.

The City’s Zoning Commission is scheduled to consider the rezoning request June 19, and the City Council could vote on the project in early August.

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Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.