A real estate investment firm that has been developing a mixed-use area of the historic Government Hill won approval this week for its plans to add a multi-family residential complex that will bring more than 300 units to the area.
The Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) approved the site plan presented by SA Quad Ventures and Austin architects The Davies Collaborative for a multi-family residential structure near the south gate of Joint Base San Antonio – Fort Sam Houston. The property, between East Carson and Quitman streets, is currently vacant except for a historic home on the northwest corner, which might need to be relocated.
At the April 3 meeting, several area residents of the historic neighborhood questioned a plan to move the house and asked for another chance to meet with the developers. Commissioners granted conceptual approval, with the home on 516 Pierce Street removed, but directed the developer to look at all options.
The proposed development, at 18035 Carson Street, is a residential and retail project that will consist of about 320 multi-family units as well as 2,500 square feet of commercial space and green space that will be open to the public.
At the HDRC meeting, a representative for the owner and developer said the development would add residential and retail options needed in the neighborhood. SA Quad Ventures is a partnership that includes John Feik, president of DFB Pharmaceuticals and founder of the Feik School of Pharmacy at the University of the Incarnate Word.
But before it can begin, the City will need to sign off on a zoning change. The developer is requesting to change from the current commercial zoning (C-2) with an Infill Development Zone (IDZ) overlay, which was put in place 10 years ago, to IDZ-3 with C-2, and removing the residential zone (R-6) from a small portion of the property. The City already has approved the permanent closure of a one-block section of Rogers Alley for the development.
A relocation plan for the historic home on the northwest corner of the property also will need to be approved by commissioners – if it’s moved at all.
SA Quad Ventures purchased the recently renovated 1930s-era Craftsman Sears kit house a few weeks ago from a service member who moved to another post. Tax records show the house is currently assessed at more than $174,000. Neighbors don’t want to see the home removed from the area.
“This sets a dangerous precedence of moving a historic property from a historic district, and I’m wondering if in the future there will be a need for historic districts if we are taking away the content of what makes these districts possible,” said Alma Cross, owner of the Bullis House Bed & Breakfast and other historic properties in San Antonio and New Orleans. Cross, who once owned then sold the Pierce house in 2015, asked if it’s not possible to keep the house that it be moved to another lot within the neighborhood.
“It’s our feeling that the home is part of the historic fabric of the neighborhood, and regardless of what we do, we’re going to preserve the home,” said JJ Feik, a partner in SA Quad Ventures. He added that his company has asked the architect to try to incorporate the home into the development.
“Our request to the HDRC about relocating it is to keep that open as an option. The other thing we’re thinking through is if there’s a way we can donate it to a nonprofit entity and relocate it to one of the many vacant lots in the neighborhood.”
Cross also complained that neighbors were not officially notified about the project, while two neighborhood groups that are commonly at odds with each other, had varying accounts of the communication.
The Government Hill Alliance Neighborhood Association led by Rose Hill is the group listed on the City of San Antonio website, which developers use to locate neighborhood association leaders. Hill spoke in support of the project at the HDRC meeting.
A newer organization, Government Hill United, first met in February and was represented at the recent HDRC meeting by Denise Homer. Her home sits adjacent to the proposed development property. Homer addressed the commissioners asking for more time to meet with the developers and give their input.
SA Quad Ventures development consultant Robert Hunt said he has met several times with members of both groups and plans to do so again as the project proceeds to the final design stage. The architect, Bill Davies, told the commission the structures have already been reduced in scale — to three stories instead of five in areas near homes — small yards were added at street level, and cladding is planned for the parking garage.
The Carson-Quitman property is in a mixed-use zone according to a Government Hill neighborhood plan that was adopted in 2001 and approved again in 2006. Hunt said the multi-family proposal is the third component of SA Quad Ventures’ plan to fulfill the mixed-use vision for the area.
Hunt and the investment firm also have their offices in the Grayson Heights Building, so the group considers itself part of the Government Hill neighborhood. The partnership has recently acquired retail property in the area and a restaurant is expected to open there. They feel it’s time for more residential in the area.
“We are excited about that prospect and all that brings to the community as well as the prospect of it adding energy and new vitality to the New Braunfels corridor, particularly now that the south gate at Fort Sam is reopened,” Feik said.
The development will provide housing for the growing number of workers in the area, including those coming to the lower Broadway corridor – Alamo Colleges headquarters, Jefferson Bank, and others – as well as Homeland Security and the Army Futures Command. “[Fort Sam] is not building any new housing, so officials there have been very encouraging to us regarding the project we’re contemplating here because they need additional housing,” Hunt said.
There are no plans to offer the units as low-income affordable housing, nor will they apply for economic development incentives, Hunt said. The partnership has fully underwritten the project.
However, the team has discussed pricing deals for service members, he added, and a significant number of “value-oriented” units (around 600 square feet), offered at market rates, will perhaps appeal to a workforce seeking entry-level price points.
The HDRC granted conceptual approval for the site plan of the project with the stipulation that the developers be mindful of creating buffers between the property and nearby homes. The developers will return to a future HDRC meeting for approval of the final designs, which Hunt expects will be completed later this year.
Construction will begin in spring or summer of 2020, he said, with the first units available two years later.