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City officials, developers, and construction executives gathered at 825 East Park Avenue in the Tobin Hill neighborhood Tuesday morning to break ground on Park Avenue at the Pearl, an apartment complex that will be largely built from shipping containers. The residences will consist of 3-bedroom homes within walking distance of the Pearl, giving those who want to live and work in the area more options to choose from.
Leticia Van de Putte, representing her firm Andrade-Van de Putte and Associates, said that the new residences are an innovative solution to the potential growth problems that the city could have in the future.
“We’re about to celebrate 300 years…and we continue to grow,” she said. “As we continue to grow, we continue to be innovative and find solutions. We’re so pleased to have Mayor Ivy Taylor (here), particularly with her vision and her wheelhouse in housing and development.”
Robert Melvin, head of the strategic consulting firm Alpha Omega Strategic Partners, said that building with shipping containers has been a long-term goal of his firm for some time.
“We have been able to turn that dream into a reality,” he said. “We’re doing so in a manner to complement what we see taking place at the Pearl where we can take something that’s old and convert it into something new.”
He added that the project is an example of “going outside of (one’s) comfort zone” to enact meaningful change.
“It’s not necessary to conduct business as usual. This has been a very long process,” he said. “But in order for something to take place and make a dramatic difference, there has to be discomfort. There is no change in comfort.”
Taylor said that the residences are an example of how the city’s prosperity can be shared across neighborhoods to ensure that all San Antonians have access to economic opportunities.
“A basic way of doing that is by having great neighborhoods spread throughout our community,” she said. “That means having various people at different income levels and lifestyles living in every single part of San Antonio. That’s why I see this (complex) as such a great opportunity.”
She conceded that while the apartments would probably be more available to people with higher incomes, they constitute an essential tool for keeping professionals in the inner city area.
Area residents told the Rivard Report on Saturday that they are concerned about noise levels, overpopulation of the area, and property taxes increasing as a result of the development. Graduate student José Parrilla, 25, recently moved into a home across the street from the residences. He too is concerned about potential property tax increases that would push out the neighborhood’s original population.
“There are people who have always lived here and might eventually get pushed out with all of this development, and that’s really not ok,” he said. “I would tell (the developers), if they even live in this community, to take into account the people who have made homes here.”
52-year-old Francisco Salazar said he worries about the safety of the neighborhood and his family.
“Before all of this, this neighborhood was quiet and calm,” Salazar said. “Right now, everything’s moving so fast. I hope it’s going to be ok, but the problem is that more people mean more trouble.”
He added that new bars in the area have already caused problems and that residents have complained about fights and other noise disruptions on weekend nights.
“I have my wife and family around here,” he said. “I know this is for the benefit of the city but what about the people who are leaving their houses and selling them to people who don’t even live here?”
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Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), who visited the site but left before the ceremony, told the Rivard Report that people currently living in the neighborhood have nothing to fear.
“This is just a different style of architecture, and not necessarily meant to change the way people live. It provides different options as to how they can live,” he argued. “The concerns…we hear them, but we’re going to work with the neighborhood to make sure that people feel comfortable with these residential units.”
He added that residents’ fear of property taxes increasing are based on misconceptions.
“That’s not how property taxes work,” he explained. “Property taxes are based on equal and uniform value. Because this is a different type of construction, regular homes should only see the typical increases that we are seeing throughout the state.”
The residences are expected to be completed in late January 2017.