NRP Group, often credited with sparking housing development at the former Brooks Air Force Base, plans to bring an even higher-end apartment complex to Brooks City Base.

Elected officials and other community leaders joined NRP representatives on Wednesday to break ground on The Residences at Kennedy Hill, a $28 million, 304-apartment complex.

The Residences will not be far from The Landings apartments that NRP opened in 2012. This will be the fifth residential development at the former base, which closed in 2002 and has since been transformed into a 1,300-acre mixed-use property that is seeing an influx of residents, students and businesses.

The Residences at Kennedy Hill, scheduled for completion in summer 2017, will be built near the School of Osteopathic Medicine that University of the Incarnate Word plans on opening in July 2017. NRP officials said the new apartment complex’s amenities would appeal to a variety of professionals, students and their families.

NRP and local leaders said The Residences are but one example of the public-private partnership of Brooks over the last decade. In addition to the existing market-rate apartments and the UIW school, Brooks City Base is home to the Texas A&M University-San Antonio campus, and major employers such as Mission Trail Baptist Hospital, DPT Laboratories, and Mission Solar.

Dan Markson, NRP’s senior vice president of development, said the new project celebrates Brooks’ heritage, the name includes a salute to President Kennedy and the base’s aerospace history. It also symbolizes the community’s future, he said. Even higher quality of construction and amenities planned for The Residences should convince people seeking affordable, quality living that the city’s Southside is a great option.

Company officials anticipate rents at The Residences will be between $875 and $1,650, with square footage ranging 690-889 for one-bedroom units to 1,020-1,395 for two bedrooms. Plans call for amenities such as a large fitness center and resort-style pool. Many units will have views oriented to a planned linear park. There will be various parking options, including direct access garages for some units, premium finishes such as granite countertops, and an elevator and integrated clubhouse serving the four-story building.

NRP is responsible for other local developments such as The Flats at Big Tex and Cevallos Lofts, both in Southtown, the Tobin Lofts at San Antonio College, and the Terrace at Haven for Hope.

“You don’t have to live at Pearl to see this kind of quality development. You can just go across the street,” Markson said pointing to the construction site.

That public-private partnership encourages not only development of the former military installation, he said, but accelerates economic growth on the Southside. Long-range plans call for Brooks City Base to use a town center development on campus to lure even more businesses, organizations and residential living opportunities to the property.

“Developments like The Landings raised the bar, now we want to bring that downtown edge to Brooks,” Markson said, referring to higher quality construction and service that newer multi-family developments offer in the city’s urban core. He noted that the area was filled with middle-income families long before the base closed.

Markson dismisses the notion that the Southside is not a prime place for affordable, luxury living.

The Landings are the NRP Group's first multi-family community at Brooks City Base. Photo by Edmond Ortiz
The Landings are the NRP Group’s first multi-family community at Brooks City Base. Photo by Edmond Ortiz

“For awhile, people forgot about (the Southside) as an option. Then when we saw the median income at The Landings was $80,000 at one point, we knew we got it right,” he added.

Brooks City Base board Chairman Manuel Villa said the mixed-use property is en route to becoming a dynamic place to work, play, live and learn.

“Back in the ’60s, President Kennedy threw a cap over the wall and dared us all to do better. I dare (NRP) to build something that has never been built here. Do it right,” Villa said. “What good happens here on the Southside will translate into good in other parts of the city.”

City Councilmember Rebecca Viagran (D3) said she could easily feel what all other Southsiders felt in the early 2000s when Brooks closed, a feeling of uncertainty. But with help from local governments, Viagran said private partners such as NRP have “blazed trails” for an economic resurgence.

In addition to the market-rate apartments cropping up in the Brooks area, hotels are being added to the mix. Embassy Suites will open at Brooks within the next year, the city’s first full-service hotel south of downtown. A Holiday Inn Express and Suites opened near the former base, and construction of a Hampton Inn close by is almost completed.

“We’re seeing more rooftops, meaning more people, which means more opportunities for business and more opportunities for families to come here and thrive,” Viagran said. “This community represents our past, present and future, not just for District 3 or the Southside but for the entire city.”

UIW assistant biology Professor Jessica Ibarra, a native Southsider currently living at Pearl, said the transformation at Brooks City Base is so remarkable that it can help change people’s perception of the area.

“I am from the Southside, and I’m happy to be back on the Southside. I am a citizen who recognizes the potential here,” she added.

Brooks City Base President and CEO Leo Gomez said he envisions The Residences being so successful that, sooner than later, a subdivision of single-family homes of the same quality could be built there. He, too, feels that the Southside is entering a resurgent era.

“I hope this (development) helps people raised on the Southside feel like they don’t have to move to the Northside. They have opportunities here,” said Gomez. “We’re developing something that, when people think of where to live next, they’ll think of coming here.”

*Top image: Construction has begun on The Residences at Kennedy Hill apartments at Brooks City Base. Image courtesy of NRP Group

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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.