Gardens at San Juan Square Apartments. Photo by Page Graham.

The oft-neglected Westside of San Antonio is getting a huge boost with the completion of the San Juan Square apartment complex. Local politicians and civic leaders gathered to celebrate the completion of the $63-million dollar public/private project, located on the grounds of the former San Juan Homes public housing project, in the 2000 block of South Zarzamora Street.

The third and final phase, called The Gardens at San Juan Square, features 252 units, including 62 for public housing, 31 voucher-based spaces and 158 affordable tax credit apartments. In addition, there 12 live-work townhomes available to families at or below 60% of area median income (AMI). Seven of these two-story, 1,228 square foot units are already pre-rented.

District 5 Councilmember Shirley Gonzales addresses attendees. Photo by Page Graham.
District 5 Councilmember Shirley Gonzales addresses attendees. Photo by Page Graham.

“This development is architecturally inspiring and every family member will be proud to call it ‘my home,’” said District 5 Councilmember Shirley Gonzales. She went on to mention that she actually looked at the complex as part of her search for a new place to live.

Other attendees at the event, which was hosted by Dan Markson of the NRP Group, included Mayor Ivy Taylor, San Antonio Housing Authority Chairman Dr. Morris Stribling, County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, and SAHA President/CEO Lourdes Castro Ramirez. Resident and business owner Janie Romo also spoke to the audience, among others.

Ceremony attendees gather next to the swimming pool. Photo by Page Graham.
Ceremony attendees gather next to the swimming pool. Photo by Page Graham.

The available amenities rival any apartment complex in the city, including a swimming pool, clubhouse, fitness center, walking trails, and community center. The recreation facilities are open to everyone in the area, not just tenants. In addition, two retail units totaling 4,200 square feet anchor each end of the project.

This was a partnership between developer and contractor NRP Group, the San Antonio Housing Authority, and Alamo Architects.

San Juan Homes was built in 1951 with additional construction in 1967. The last tenants were relocated in July 2013, and demolition was completed by August. Anyone familiar with San Antonio’s old housing courts would be generous in describing them as adequate at best. Although some projects, such as Lincoln Courts, have been remodeled to bring them up to modern standards, others, including Victoria Courts and San Juan Homes, were torn down to create contemporary, desirable housing.

While San Juan Homes had 458 units, all three phases of San Juan Square have 539 units. Spread out over 41 acres, the complex has an open feel to it. The swimming pool and patio are quite large, and the pool even features a six-inch deep splash area for small children.

To help promote walkability, a cross walk featuring traffic signals is scheduled to be built across Zarzamora Street, which is known as a notoriously dangerous route to cross.

A crosswalk with stoplights is going to be built along Zarzamora Street. Photo by Page Graham.
A cross walk with stop lights is going to be built along Zarzamora Street. Photo by Page Graham.

Sustainability is a key design feature. The apartments meet Build San Antonio Green (BSAG) Level II standards, which include energy efficiency, water conservation, as well as site and health requirements. Appliances and air conditioning units all meet Energy Star requirements.

San Juan Square is only one component in the revitalization of the Westside. Other recent developments include the apartments built on the site of the San Antonio Stockyards. Perhaps the most notable improvement to the area is the new H-E-B on Nogalitos Street, which is almost complete.

Work on the new H-E-B continues at a rapid pace. Photo by Page Graham.
Work on the new H-E-B continues at a rapid pace. Photo by Page Graham.

Although the Westside is seeing steady improvement, it is still a long way from so-called “gentrification.” Not far from San Juan Square, one can find people living in dilapidated shotgun shacks. Shopping centers feature business such as rent-to-own stores and thrift shops. Dogs continue to roam – even occasionally sleeping in the streets.

However, new housing such as San Juan Square tends to act as a catalyst for improvement. Long-neglected locally owned businesses benefit from new customers. Existing residents tends to take renewed pride in their homes and seek to improve them. It may be a lengthy process, but regardless, tangible improvements are being made.

*Featured/top image: Gardens at San Juan Square Apartments. Photo by Page Graham.

Related stories:

 Cattleman Square Apartments, Anyone?

‘El Mercado Zona Cultura’ Emerging in Commerce Corridor

Home Tour Showcases Green Living in San Antonio

Bernal Targets Vacant Buildings, Sets Sights on Alamo Plaza

State of the Center City: More Housing, Fewer Vacant Buildings

Page Graham

Page Graham has been a resident of San Antonio – on and off – for over 30 years now. He has moved into the corporate world, making a living developing training materials and Powerpoint presentations...