The Broadway luxury residential tower languished on the market for several years with most units unsold and unoccupied, but record sales in 2015 have brought the tower located at Broadway and Hildebrand on the site of a former Earl Abel’s Restaurant to nearly 70% sold. Former San Antonio Spurs David Robinson and his wife Valerie are among those calling The Broadway home these days.

Sales at the Broadway have tested the upper end of San Antonio’s luxury high-rise market, but associates reported $17.5 million in unit sales at the condominium high-rise in 2015, including the sale of the Majestic penthouse that occupies the whole 21-story tower’s top floor. The sale was for more than 11,000 sq. ft. The Majestic penthouse on the 20th floor is said to be home to the Robinsons. Both were originally priced at $4.5 million in 2012. The actual sales prices are not public.

Today the lowest available new unit is a 1,601 sq. ft. two bedroom,  2 1/2 bath on the fourth floor priced at $650,000, or $405 a sq. ft. A private seller is offering a 1,262 sq. ft. one bedroom, 1 1/2 bath on the fifth floor priced at $520,000, or $412 a sq. ft.. Upper floor units average $1.5 million, with the most expensive unit currently for sale being a 2,366 sq. ft. two bedroom, three bath on the 17th floor priced at $1.6 million, or $676 a sq. ft. There were nine units listed for sale on Monday.

The 90-unit Broadway, which opened in 2010 as the Great Recession was slowly ending, was designed by Ziegler Cooper Architects in Houston and developed by commercial and residential real estate firm Koontz McCombs. It didn’t help initial marketing efforts that a City of San Antonio public works project to control road flooding and storm runoff had reduced vehicle access and traffic flow in and around the Broadway-Hildebrand intersection for more than one year. The market reaction to The Broadway’s opening was lukewarm, so in early 2012 developers lowered entry-level prices from $499,000 to $349,000. Until the pricing change, units on the third through 15th floors were priced the same, despite differences in size, layout and the views.

The Broadway's pool at night. Courtesy photo.
The Broadway’s pool at night. Courtesy photo.

Last year the firm separated into the Koontz Corp. and McCombs Enterprises, with McCombs retaining ownership and management of The Broadway.

Harry Adams, executive vice president of real estate development for McCombs Enterprises, said customer traffic around The Broadway was affected by the economic downturn and less so by the 18-month-long, $15 million street and drainage improvement project at Broadway and Hildebrand.

Adams said McCombs never lost confidence in the project. By spring of 2015, The Broadway reached the halfway point in units sold. Then in early summer, The Broadway’s marketing team switched from Phyllis Browning Co. to Kuper Southeby’s International Realty in an effort to further boost sales above the 60% mark.

“It’s the best year we’ve ever had. We couldn’t be happier,” Adams said, adding that McCombs Enterprises strives to keep “building value” at The Broadway.

The multifamily rental market farther south on Broadway boomed during the same time period The Broadway was being built and opened, and it continues apace with no signs that developers have produced enough inventory to satisfy growing demand. Amid that boom there have been a few boutique condo projects in Midtown, which have sold well, but at lower prices than those found at The Broadway or at the Alteza atop the Grand Hyatt Hotel downtown on East Market Street. Some market watchers have questioned whether the stretch of Broadway approaching Alamo Heights and overlooking Brackenridge Park and the University of Incarnate Word was ready for the kind of high-dollar condo sales that have become routine in other Texas cities. The Broadway’s sales representatives hope to sell the remaining units this year, but even so, the market for million dollar condos remains small in San Antonio.

The Pearl’s development of 102-unit The Cellars apartments adjacent to the recently opened Hotel Emma will be a different test of the growing demand for urban apartment living. Prices are expected to average $3 a sq. ft. for unit rentals, which represents a 50% increase over the prevailing price for downtown apartment living at the better developments.

Developers of high-end residences have enticed locals and newly arriving residents from cities with higher costs of living who want to live, work and play in a resurgent center city. The City’s goal first set when Mayor Julián Castro was in office is to build 7,500 residential units by 2020, a goal many developers now believe will be exceeded.

Adams said “there’s not another property” exactly like The Broadway in San Antonio, which he said is aimed mainly at corporate and civic leaders, young professionals and empty nesters looking to downsize.

“Honestly, we nor the client get hung up on price. I wouldn’t say we’ve lost business because of pricing because people are buying into a lifestyle,” he said.

Adams said until recently there were few options for empty nesters wanting to downsize other than active lifestyle communities. People in that category want to live independently, closer to downtown, and within close proximity to restaurants, shops and urban recreational amenities.

“Empty nesters are making a choice to move back into the core of the cities. It’s not just San Antonio,” he said. “It’s a lifestyle: They want ease and peace of mind about maintenance and security, but they also want to be closer to all the restaurants and entertainment.”

According to Keller Williams Realty, Adams is right to stay confident about The Broadway’s future. The realtor noted in an August blog that “many San Antonio residents, from young professionals to retirees and everything in between, have started snatching up area town homes and condos.”

Other high-rise residences are reaping benefits from a more vibrant urban core. The Alteza luxury condos above the Grand Hyatt announced recently it has reached 80% sellout.

Within the last three years, Koontz and McCombs, when they were a singular firm, developed CityVista. Now managed by Koontz, it’s a multi-story luxury apartment community atop a hill on Hildebrand, across from Trinity University and boasting views of the downtown skyline. Monthly rents range from $1,300 to $3,000.

As for the small segment of the Millennial market with the income to afford a luxury residence, Adams said The Broadway fits their needs and expectations.

“There’s a sophisticated set of buyers that’s moving into the center of the city,” he said. “The Broadway helps to bring quality professionals into the city center, and that will be transformational.”

 CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that The Broadway was built on the site of a former Jim’s Restaurant. It was Earl Abel’s, which moved to 1201 Austin Highway.

*Top image: The Broadway Residences, a community of high-end condominiums at Broadway and Hildebrand, has reported being 70% sold out by the end of 2015. Photo by Edmond Ortiz.

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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.