The Zoning Commission voted to recommend historic landmark zoning for two properties in Alta Vista, (from left) 2511 N. Flores St. and 800 W. Russell Pl. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The Zoning Commission on Tuesday endorsed slight zoning changes for two neighboring Alta Vista properties that would fully accommodate formal historic designations of both structures.

The commission voted unanimously in separate motions to recommend historic landmark zoning for 800 W. Russell Pl. and 2511 N. Flores St. Both addresses feature 20th-century houses.

City staff recommended approving both properties for rezoning as historic butis not proposing a change in the base zoning for 800 W. Russell, which is light commercial, or a base zoning change for 2511 N. Flores, which is multi-family. City Council will discuss the rezoning at a later date.

The Council last November approved the Historic and Design Review Commission’s recommendations to designate the two houses as historic landmarks after neighbors opposed the then-property owner’s plan to demolish both buildings.

The home on West Russell is a one-story, 99-year-old Craftsman bungalow constructed by Mary Delahay, a native Kansan, and friend of President Lincoln’s family. She also helped to pay for road improvements in the West Russell/North Flores area.

The two-story, 108-year-old Neoclassical house on North Flores is an example of a colonial revival style that was commonplace with newly built homes in the early 20th century.

Austin-based company GCM Holdings previously owned the two properties, but it’s lenders foreclosed because of a payment dispute, said George Marwieh, who represented Austin-based MCompanies, the then-financial advisor for GCM.

Marwieh did not reveal who the new investor/owners are. Marwieh also said he could not speak for GCM, but acknowledged the developer seemed unwilling to compromise with Alta Vista residents.

Representatives from GCM reportedly walked out on a meeting that City Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) had arranged with neighbors late last year. The developers opposed the HRDC’s recommendation for historic designation, fearing it would jeopardize plans for the Alta Vista properties.

“(GCM’s) refusal to talk with the community led us to where we are today,” Marwieh added.

Neighbors said the Zoning Commission’s approval of rezoning the properties as historic help to preserve the community’s character. But said they also understood the historic designations do not preclude future redevelopment, demolition or removal of either structure.

Earlier in Tuesday’s commission meeting, Alta Vista residents expressed support for a planned expansion of the Public Theater of San Antonio.

“We’re not opposed to development as long as it’s responsible development that works with the community,” Alta Vista Neighborhood Association President Teresa Niño said.

There is no new official proposal for 800 West Russell or 2511 North Flores. But Marwieh said the new investor/owners of the properties tentatively envision developing condominium-style units there.

“We’d really like to work with the Alta Vista community and determine what will work for all involved,” he added.

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.