The Historic and Design Review Commission weighed two applications for projects in the Mission Historic District – one that will lead to a new housing development along the Mission Reach and the other that clears the way for the owner to demolish a structure once considered historic.

Architect Nicholas Melde of Architexas presented Wednesday on behalf of owner Peter Greenblum for final approval of a design plan that would bring 25 two-story homes to 326 Riverside Dr. Two historic homes on the 1.5-acre site, a former mobile home park that is now vacant, also will be restored.

Commissioners gave conceptual approval to the design plan in November and final approval is contingent on City staff’s approval of the architect’s plan for the windows, some of which will be fixed windows, in parts of the 1,300-square-foot homes. 

Most of the windows will be operable, Melde said, except in the case of transoms or clerestory windows that aren’t reachable. The fixed windows are also a cost-saving measure. But all windows in the 11 homes facing the San Antonio River are designed to be opened to allow for natural ventilation. 

The site plan is contemporary in that it uses zero-lot lines for the two-bedroom, two-bath homes, Melde said, but for the design of the homes, he applied some of the historic elements and materials that exist in what had become largely an industrial area. 

Commissioner Gabriel Velasquez described the project on San Antonio’s South Side as “really nicely balanced architecture.”

Melde worked for Alamo Architects when he designed a neighboring property, The South Side at 2450 Roosevelt Ave., a former warehouse converted to open-concept artists studio and living space in 2019, developed by James Lifshutz. 

Greenblum also developed a townhome community at Nogalitos and Keller streets in the Lone Star neighborhood and has a 20-unit bungalow-style townhome project in the works north of Alamo Heights.

Final approval from commissioners allows the developer to start civil engineering, demolition of two structures on the site, site preparation, and restoration of the historic structures for housing. Groundbreaking and construction on the new homes should begin before the end of the year, Melde said. 

The homes will be priced above the $300,000 range, said Lori Campos, a realtor with Lux Agency, but with construction scheduled to take more than a year, the homes won’t be marketed for another six months.

Once developed, the property will provide some residents with views of the San Antonio River. Credit: Courtesy / Nicholas Melde / Architexas

Also reviewed by commissioners at their most recent meeting was a request to determine whether a former marble and stone workshop at 111 Roosevelt Ave. contributes to the historic status of the Mission District. 

Built in 1928 for Meier Bros. Granite and Marble Works, a family-owned business that operated until 2018, the structure is where Henry Meier created a number of monuments, mausoleums, and stonework, including projects for San Antonio City Hall, the Federal Reserve Bank Building, the Nix Professional Building, Groos National Bank, and the Aurora Apartments. Meier died in 1949 and his sons continued the business for decades after. 

Beyond the wood-clad facade of the workshop is a building covered in corrugated metal with windows just below the eaves and a shorter metal-clad addition. A mausoleum constructed of tile and concrete masonry attached at the southeast corner of the workshop was not included in the request.

“Henry Meier was not known for his workshop,” said attorney Rene Ruiz, representing developer Phil Bakke. “He was known for his mausoleum and monument work.”

Ruiz also stated that requiring the owner to retain the building reflects a “dominant historical trend of economic heritage of South San Antonio [as] one of marginalization and neglect. 

“The preservation of this tin shack on a dead-end road by the railroad tracks seems to me to be a good way to perpetuate that history and prevent a badly needed revitalization of this area,” he said. 

City staff recommended retaining the historic contributing status, and the Conservation Society of San Antonio also supported that recommendation.

A decision that the structure does not have contributing status to the historic district would “inform the demolition process moving forward,” according to Cory Edwards, deputy historic preservation officer for the City of San Antonio. 

“What we’re going to do is dismantle that building piece by piece, and we’ll repurpose the components to the overall project,” Bakke told the San Antonio Report, adding that he plans to retain more of the other structures on the site than he is required to do.

Bakke plans to move his company headquarters to the 2-acre site, landscaping and renovating the circa-1951 structure at 207 Roosevelt Ave. into office space.

A majority of the commissioners agreed with the applicant about the workshop. 

Commissioner Curtis Fish said he was familiar with the structure, which he would not consider a landmark given its condition. 

“It’s kind of in my neck of the woods,” he said. “I understand it’s quite cobbled together, quite deteriorated. I think this falls in that category of those that we … tend to make a determination of loss of significance.”

The commission voted 4-2 to approve the request. Commissioner Scott Carpenter, who had conducted a review of contributing status on behalf of the owner in May 2020, recused himself. 

“We’re native to San Antonio. We love our city,” said Bakke, adding he recently moved from Alamo Heights to the King William area. “I see that as a very neighborhood-oriented area – all the businesses are full of mom-and-pop shops. It just feels like the best of San Antonio.”

Shari Biediger has been covering business and development for the San Antonio Report since 2017. A graduate of St. Mary’s University, she has worked in the corporate and nonprofit worlds in San Antonio...