A New York-based real estate developer announced Friday it has acquired the Aurora Apartments, a residence for low-income seniors and people with disabilities in Tobin Hill.

Fairstead plans to invest $15 million to rehabilitate the aging, 11-story tower at 509 Howard St., near Crockett Park and San Antonio College, and maintain its affordability aspect and historic character. 

“Our plan to overhaul the homes at Aurora will ensure our senior residents can age in place with dignity — something we are committed to doing nationwide,” stated Allan Izzo, director of development at Fairstead. 

Built in 1930 as a luxury hotel, Aurora is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features hand-carved fireplaces and grand common spaces. 

Today, the building’s 105 units are reserved for residents making up to 60% of the region’s area median income, which is $58,450 annually for an individual. 

Mitch Meyer of Loopy Ltd. purchased the building in 2007. He couldn’t immediately be reached for comment regarding the sale of the property, valued at $6 million according to the most recent county tax records.

In 2017,​​ San Antonio Code Compliance and Metropolitan Health District notified the federal Housing and Urban Development office in Fort Worth about an infestation of bedbugs and cockroaches at the privately-owned building. 

Meyer said at the time that he was complying with a corrective action plan and would have the infestation cleared within 10 days. 

Fairstead plans to renovate the interior spaces and preserve the Aurora’s neo-gothic facade, mosaic tile floors and walls, doors and fixtures. Other improvements will include upgrading the emergency generator, electrical panels and main switchgear; installing a sprinkler system, two new elevators and a new roof. 

Apartments will get new energy-efficient appliances, upgraded kitchens, bathrooms and air conditioning, and the work will start this summer, according to the Fairstead announcement.

Fairstead will temporarily relocate residents to a hotel during the renovation process, which will be done in phases, said a spokeswoman. Fairstead plans to coordinate with residents in advance, cover the costs associated with temporary accommodations and assign a relocation coordinator to assist residents with that process.

Financing for the rehabilitation is being provided through a partnership with Las Varas Public Facility Corporation, a nonprofit managed by the San Antonio Housing Authority, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Capital One and Boston Financial.

Fairstead is also partnering with a national nonprofit to provide social services to residents. Rainbow Housing Assistance Corp. already provides such services to three apartment communities in San Antonio.

“Rainbow will offer a variety of programs targeting financial literacy, credit enhancements, education, [English as a Second Language], career development and immediate employment,” stated Flynann Janisse, president and executive director of Rainbow Housing Assistance Corp. “We will establish tailored programing to meet the unique needs of each individual and family that calls Aurora Apartments home.” 

Fairstead manages more than 90 properties across the U.S., including two in the Houston area. The Aurora Apartments is its first investment in 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...