A multifamily residential development first proposed over two years ago for a vacant lot in the Government Hill Historic District was given the go-ahead Wednesday.
The Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) granted final approval to an investor group known as SA Quad Ventures to develop a 281-unit apartment complex as part of the group’s larger development that already includes an office and commercial buildings on Grayson Street.
A parking garage is also planned within the Grayson Heights multifamily development located west of North New Braunfels Avenue near the entrance to Joint Base San Antonio–Fort Sam Houston.
In April 2019, commissioners approved the site plan presented by Austin architects The Davies Collaborative with the stipulation that the developers be mindful of creating buffers between the 4-acre property and nearby homes.
Since then, the proposed project has shrunk from its original 320 units and some buildings have been reduced in height from five stories to three and four stories.
In addition, the developers donated a renovated 1930s-era Craftsman Sears kit house that sat on the northwest corner of the development site to San Antonio Affordable Housing (SAAH), a nonprofit under the City’s Office of Urban Redevelopment San Antonio.
With approval from HDRC and the Texas Historical Commission, SAAH relocated the historic home from 516 Pierce St. to another lot within Government Hill at 303 Spofford St. Relocating the home opened the property for the development, which will also include a dog park and community park open to the public.
Development consultant Robert Hunt said SAAH paid for relocating the home and plans to resell it as an affordable home. The proceeds will be used by the Neighborhood & Housing Services Department to provide home repair grants to area homeowners.
“That helps the historical context of the neighborhood continue to improve, especially for folks that may have deferred maintenance that can’t afford to address that,” said JJ Feik, a partner in SA Quad Ventures. “In addition, the home was moved just a block and a half away in the historic district to an empty lot that had been empty for many years. So it’s really kind of a weaving into the fabric of where there was a hole in the community.”
The developers met multiple times with neighborhood groups about the project, Hunt said. Rose Hill, president of the Government Hill Alliance, said residents are happy to see the development take the place of a lot that’s been empty for 40 or 50 years.
“The plan itself is going to bring beauty to the community, and everybody in the neighborhood was in support of it,” Hill said.
One of six neighborhoods that developed in the San Antonio suburbs between 1890 and 1930, Government Hill began to decline after World War II when many homes were converted to multifamily housing and Interstate 35 bisected the neighborhood.
It was named a historic district in 2002 and has experienced a resurgence of new development in the last decade.
The property was rezoned in June of 2019 to a high-intensity infill development zone with commercial and multifamily uses. The City also approved the permanent closure of a one-block section of Rogers Alley for the development.
Hunt said he expects construction to begin later this year, when a financing deal through U.S. Housing and Urban Development closes. The first buildings should be completed 18 months after the start.
The apartments will be leased at $150 to $400 less than rates typically seen in the Pearl area and suitable for the service members and civilian employees from the nearby Army post. Hunt said 30 units will be studios with rental rates set at a level that is ideal for those just entering the workforce.
The residential component of Grayson Heights is the “last piece of a puzzle” in a larger development within Government Hil, Feik said. In 2016, the group completed a five-story office building now occupied by a number of business tenants and anchored by a branch of Bank of America.
“So we’ve not only renovated the buildings but we brought new jobs into the neighborhood as well,” he said.