Future of North St. Mary's Street condo project in flux

by Jolene AlmendarezJuly 17, 2018

The Tobin Hill neighborhood just north of downtown could see major changes if a local developer looking to build condo towers can convince residents and City Council to support a zoning variance.

On the southwest corner of North St. Mary’s and East Euclid streets, four houses and a former boxing gym, Team Alcoser A&G Boxing, sit on a .588-acre piece of land that straddles an invisible line that delineates two sides of Tobin Hill. Up until now, development influenced by the Pearl has crept into Tobin Hill, but the major multifamily projects have stayed east of North St. Mary's Street.

On those two lots — located at 1817 N. St. Mary’s and 824 E. Euclid — five towers could end up housing around 30 condo units on the side of St. Mary’s that’s still mostly rows and rows of single-family homes — a development the Tobin Hill Community Association (THCA) is open to considering.

“We are proposing a 30-unit condominium that would have an individualized elevator system that would drop you off on the entire floor,” Robert Melvin, CEO of development company Limitless Creations, said. “So as an owner of the condo, you would use your own floor.”

He said he plans on constructing the site with reused shipping containers that could be finished with stucco or stone facades, and that would blend well with the neighborhood. The towers could be between four and eight stories tall. Each unit could cost in the $350,000 range.

So far, as the project has reached the planning and zoning commissions, city staff has recommended denial, citing the project’s size.

At a Zoning Commission meeting Tuesday, a request for an MF-65 zoning variance, which would allow about 33 units to be built on the lots, was issued a continuance.

Limitless Creations attorney Patrick Christensen said at the meeting that the continuance was the best option for everyone involved after the Planning Commission last week denied the company’s request to amend the Tobin Hill Neighborhood Plan for a high-density mixed-use development on the lots. The commission, however, denied the change and recommended the lots be used for low-density mixed use. This designation means only 25 units could be placed on an acre of land. While the Zoning Commission voted for a continuance, city staff was also going to recommend that the zoning variance not be approved.

Frederica Kushner, chair of the THCA’s Historic Preservation Committee, said during the public comment period, “We need to work this out, so I really would like to ask you to vote a continuance so we can do this.”

But City Council could still approve the project, even if the zoning commission doesn't approve a variance.

“We have the opportunity to kind of present our case and what it is that we would like to build there,” Melvin said.

So for Melvin, the breadth of his condo proposal may be heavily influenced by how well Limitless Creations works to find middle ground with the Tobin Hill Community Association.

“I think everyone is OK with something being done on this corner. It’s just a matter of what,” Christensen said after the meeting Tuesday. “We don’t want to have a contentious hearing where everyone's fighting with everyone.”

He said the concrete details about the condos — height, units, price, design — are not set in stone.

He also said the company initially intended to demolish the four homes, but Limitless Creations and the community association agreed to salvage two of the homes — meaning parts of the homes, such as sinks, fixtures, or flooring, would be taken by a company and used in other developments. The other two homes could be moved to another empty lot in the neighborhood, salvaged, or, as a last option, demolished.

Another compromise being hashed out, he said, is ensuring that the tallest towers are aligned closest to Interstate 35 while the smaller towers are positioned near East Euclid Street.

Melvin added, “We’ve partnered with the family so that we can restore that corner store to its original facade, kind of giving it that touch of old combined with a new model structure.”

Before it became a boxing gym, the A&G Market was run by 95-year-old Alice Gonzales and her family for years. She is the longtime owner of the two lots and has been brought into the project as a partner.

Christensen said the former market space will used as the sales office for the property before transitioning into retail space, such as another small grocery store or coffee shop.

The goal, Melvin said, is to create “a nice entryway to the Tobin Hill community and complement existing businesses and structures.”

Featured photo shows the former Team Alcoser A&G Boxing, 1817 N. St. Mary's St. Credit: Ben Olivo | San Antonio Heron

Contact Jolene Almendarez: 210-550-0087 | jolene@saheron.com | @jalmendarez57 on Twitter

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