Incentives Push Downtown Development
City incentives are sparking the development of new residential options in Downtown San Antonio, such as The Flats on St. Mary's.
San Antonio has a number of new urban core development projects: The Can Plant Residences at Pearl, Blue Star Arts Complex in Southtown and The Vistana Apartments Downtown. A city focus on Downtown has jump-started groundbreaking on the Frost Tower and the restoration of the historic Art Deco Hedrick Building and the neighboring Voss Building on St. Mary’s Street.
Uri Villarreal and his partner, Craig Glendenning, expected to complete the removal of the Hedrick’s 1960s-era aluminum siding this week and begin work on 54 luxury apartments, called The Flats on St. Mary’s. The apartments will be paired with office and retail, as well as a deck venue modeled on The Traveler’s Club, which was popular in the 1940s and '50s in Downtown San Antonio.
Villarreal, the lead broker on the Hedrick-Voss deal, credits the city’s push to redevelop vacant and underutilized buildings downtown with his move on Hedrick. City efforts included creating a log to track the condition of vacant buildings and an incentive program to encourage residential development, known as the Center City Housing Incentive Policy, or CCHIP.
“The project itself would not have been feasible unless we had some incentives,” Villarreal said. “The footprint of the building is inefficient because it’s very narrow. And it has been vacant for 25 years, exposed to the elements. Without the incentives, I don’t think it would be possible.”
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The Flats on St. Mary's would take down what has been considered a vacant eyesore for two decades. The city sought to demolish it in 2009. The most charitable label used for the Hedrick Building in the media was blighted. The $12M transformation of Hedrick and its neighboring properties is expected to take two years, including demolition.
San Antonio-based B&A Architects are on The Flats on St. Mary's restoration project. B&A were the architects on the distinctive The Peanut Factory Lofts. The project, on South Frio on the near West Side, was the first market-rate city infill project under the new Downtown incentive programs.
The announcement of the Frost Tower and the continuing expansion of Downtown apartments leaves Villarreal optimistic about the future of Downtown. The fact the city has offered incentives has sweetened the deal for potential developers.
“The city is motivated to redevelop,” Villarreal said. “I’d say we’re pretty bullish on Downtown.”