The first resident of a new affordable housing project in the desirable River North neighborhood of downtown San Antonio will mark one week in her new apartment on Friday. 

Museum Reach Lofts, the latest development by the nonprofit housing developer Alamo Community Group, began welcoming its first tenants this month amid a looming pandemic-driven crisis in housing.

The apartment complex, which is nearing completion, sits on a triangular half-acre lot at 1500 N. St. Mary’s St. near the San Antonio Museum of Art and steps from the River Walk and the Pearl. In the past week, five other units have been occupied by newly-arrived residents, including two families, according to property manager Paula Carroll. 

“It’s a diverse group of people, of all ages and backgrounds,” Carroll said. “We have people from out of town, too,” including Austin, where the first resident had lived. “She is absolutely loving it.”

Construction on the brick, stucco, and siding structure began a year ago. Workers are now putting on the final touches to paint, systems, and landscaping for the five-story project. An outdoor courtyard is taking shape at ground level, and a learning center is nearly ready for furnishings. 

The Museum Reach Lofts will feature a courtyard for residents to safely gather. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The application process to qualify for an apartment opened in August. Four months later, the 94-unit complex is 40 percent leased. Click here for more information.

Museum Reach Lofts is intended for people who work in the service industry or in lower-paying jobs in the downtown area, where rental rates are 31 percent higher than the San Antonio average, according to the listing service, RentCafe.

Demand for affordable housing in the area is high. The developer’s spokesperson said that when he promoted Museum Reach Lofts to area businesses, managers told him some of their minimum-wage employees faced 45-minute drives from home to work. 

A post about the complex on yard sale websites drew responses from more than 400 people in a matter of days. Demand for affordable housing is expected to grow as historic levels of unemployment this year lead to evictions and homelessness, said Michael Shackelford, director of policy and resource, Alamo Community Group.

“We know there’s going to be a lot of need,” he said. “It’s been a challenge, but we’re doing all that we can.”

Museum Reach Lofts offers 86 of its studio, one- and two-bedroom units at 30 percent, 50 percent, and 60 percent of the area median income ($52,455 in 2019), with monthly rents between $290 and $794. 

The remaining eight units are offered at market rate – between $774 and $1,008 a month. 

Each of the five different floor plans, many with views of the San Antonio skyline, feature modern kitchens with a refrigerator, full-size oven, dishwasher, and washer-dryer hookups. Bedrooms are carpeted and wood-look laminate flooring in the living area continues into the building’s hallways and common spaces. 

There are two elevators in the building, a shared terrace on the fifth floor, laundry facilities, and a staffed learning center that will soon be open to students for tutoring year-round.

The project was funded through $1.2 million in low-income housing tax credits from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. Alamo Community Group was awarded $646,838 in Center City Housing Incentive Policy waivers for the project, and $2.8 million from the Midtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone to purchase the lot. 

“The finalization of Museum Reach Lofts truly means a lot to our board, staff, and supporters,” stated Jennifer Gonzalez, executive director of Alamo Community Group. “However, our mission is far from complete. We will continue to move forward to provide the best affordable housing in San Antonio and Bexar County.”

The developer is now turning its attention to construction of the Cattleman Square Lofts, a 158-unit affordable housing project at 811 W. Houston St., expected to be complete in 2022. 

The development will be built on land acquired from the Alamo College District in 2019 and is located on the near West Side close to the downtown campus of the University of Texas at 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...