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The Historic and Design Review Commission considered several large projects on Wednesday, but the 210 Development Group’s plan to build a 240-unit apartment complex right behind Mission Concepción was not one of them.
“We’re doing some additional plan studies and documentation that the Commission requested,” said Michael Wibracht, president of the local development firm.
The delay has nothing to do with recent complaints about the proposed buildings’ height exceeding City-designated thresholds for structures built near the four Spanish colonial-era Missions in the Southside, he said. 210 Development withdrew the project from Wednesday’s agenda and will likely come back before HDRC for final approval in August.
Nonetheless, several representatives from Native American tribes were allowed to speak during the meeting to express their extreme opposition to the project.
The speakers included Maria Torres, tribal chairwoman for the Pacuache Indian Tribe First Nation of Texas, and five others that are becoming familiar faces to City officials and developers of projects proposed and completed on “sacred, ancestral land,” Torres said, like those near Alamo Plaza, the other four Missions, Hemisfair Park, and beyond.
The apartment complex, so-called Villa Concepción, “is a huge encroachment to the universal value” of the mission, she said. Preserving the historical and cultural context is critical if the City wants to keep the Missions’ World Heritage designation from UNESCO. She suggested that the City impose eminent domain to seize land around the Missions for protection from development. It’s an idea that has not gained much traction locally and strongly contradicts the general preference for property owners rights in Texas, but the City has used eminent domain before. The neighborhood that HemisFair ’68 was built on is one prominent example.
Other concerned citizens and groups, including the Alliance for San Antonio Missions, have called for the City to use money from the 2017 Municipal Bond to purchase the land. The Alliance is not opposed to all development near the Missions, representatives have said, but they’d rather see “smart” development that preserves locals’ and visitors’ experiences of the historic structures.
Because of the neighborhood’s adamant support of the apartment complex at Concepción, however, the Alliance softened its stance on the matter. That is, until it came to light that some of the buildings will be higher than the Mission Protection Overlay District allows. Some portions will be visible from the grounds of the Mission and that “sets a bad precedence,” Alliance spokesperson Carroll Brown told the Rivard Report Tuesday.
Top image: View of Mission Concepción from a drone looking east. Photo by Scott Ball.