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Broadway apartment design draws scrutiny from design commission

by Ben OlivoSep 09, 2018
This rendering shows a proposed 283-unit apartment building at the southwest corner of Broadway and Jones Avenue. RENDERINGS COURTESY NRP GROUP / SAN ANTONIO HOUSING TRUST PUBLIC FACILITY CORP.

Members of the Historic and Design Review Commission earlier this week criticized the Broadway facade of a massive, monolithic apartment building co-developed by NRP Group and the San Antonio Housing Trust Public Facility Corp.

Particularly, developer NRP Group is designing 283-unit apartment building flanked by Broadway, Jones Avenue, Avenue B and 10th Street — a stone's throw away from the Museum Reach stretch of the San Antonio River.

In particular, HDRC commissioners took issue with what they called essentially a lack of effort in designing the Broadway side of the project, shown in the featured image above.

"Those balconies looked like they were glued on," Michael C. Connor told the NRP Group design team. "And if you look at the corner of Jones and Avenue B, and Jones and Broadway, that overhang is substantial in length and it suits the massing that it's on, and it looks integral to the design. It doesn't look superfluous."

Proposed apartments facing Broadway at Jones Avenue.

Ryan Moody, NRP Group's director of design, made the point that, although Broadway traffic is due to slow down via the 2017-2022 bond complete streets project, traffic still zooms down the street. Therefore, the design emphasis was on the street-level restaurant space, rather than the building's upper floors.

"We're really trying to ... let the rest of the mass be a little more simplistic in nature to draw more attention to the ground," Moody told the commission.

Connor disagreed with the notion that drivers will speed down Broadway once the apartments are built, especially with curb cuts as part of the NRP Group's design.

"When it's occupied, it's going to slow down," Connor said. "I would encourage you to seriously reconsider what you're doing on Broadway."

Connor and other commissioners praised the project's other sides. The project eventually received conceptual approval.

NRP Group designers said they hoped to begin construction late this year or in early 2019.

In its partnership with the nonprofit San Antonio Housing Trust PFC, a City Council-created entity, NRP Group is exempt from paying property taxes. In return, half of the units are set aside for households making 80 percent of the area median income (AMI), which is $50,800 for a family of four who live in the greater San Antonio area.

The other half will be priced at market-rate, which — in the River North/Pearl area — hovers around $2.33 a square foot, according to a rents survey by the Heron.

The project is due to receive an incentives package from the city of San Antonio — $1.1 million in city and SAWS fee waivers, $417,500 in a mixed-use loan — under the old Center City Housing Incentives Policy (CCHIP). Currently, the CCHIP is on hold as city staff revise the policy. In December, Mayor Ron Nirenberg announced a moratorium on the policy until revisions could be made that benefit affordable housing efforts in San Antonio.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on those revisions Oct. 11. On Monday, the Heron will post a comprehensive explanation of the changes.

What the Broadway and Jones Avenue apartments would look like from 10th Street.
What the Broadway and Jones Avenue apartments would look like from Jones.
The Broadway and Jones Avenue apartments from the corner of Avenue B and 10th Street.
The Broadway and Jones Avenue development from Jones and Avenue B.

Contact Ben Olivo: 210-421-3932 | ben@saheron.com | @rbolivo on Twitter

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