Construction of St. John's Square apartments expected to begin in November

by Ben OlivoAugust 22, 2019
The eight-story, 250-unit St. John's Square development is being proposed for the southeast corner of St. Mary's and Nueva streets. Courtesy Courtesy Mark Odom Studio
The eight-story, 251-unit St. John's Square development is being planned for the southeast corner of St. Mary's and Nueva streets. Courtesy Mark Odom Studio

The construction of St. John's Square, an eight-story, 251-unit mixed-income apartment building eyed for a vacant lot near La Villita, could begin in November and be completed by August 2021, according to today's City Council meeting agenda.

Austin developer Dennis McDaniel, who built the Steel House Lofts in Southtown nearby, and the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) are teaming up on the $65 million project, which is located at the southeast corner of East Nueva and South St. Mary's streets on property owned by St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The development is a major one in that it will rise higher than five stories—most of the new downtown area housing in recent years has been capped at five stories. Developments taller than five stories require steel and concrete lattices and are thus more expensive to build as opposed to those five stories or shorter, whose skeletons are made of wood.

Its location on 1.3 acres at 422 E. Nueva St. is also significant. It's a true downtown development and close to major landmarks and districts, such as La Villita, Hemisfair, the River Walk and Southtown. Most of the new housing since Mayor Julián Castro kicked off his downtown initiative nine years ago has been on the outskirts.

Recently, SAHA officials have said projects like St. John's Square will offer housing options for lower-income people who work at hotels and restaurants in the downtown service industry.

At St. John's Square, 50 of the the 251 units will be reserved for households making half of the area median income (AMI), or less. Here's how that income bracket breaks down:

What's AMI?
The area median income (AMI) for a family of four in the greater San Antonio area (Bandera, Bexar, Comal, Guadalupe and Wilson counties) is $71,000, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Here's how it breaks down for lower-income households:
» 80% - $56,800
» 70% - $49,700
» 60% - $42,600
» 50% - $35,500
» 40% - $28,400
» 30% - $21,300

50% of the area median income by family size
» 1 — $24,850
» 2 — $28,400
» 3 — $31,950
» 4 — $35,500
» 5 — $38,350
» 6 — $41,200
» 7 — $44,050
» 8 — $46,900

[ Editor's note: For a complete AMI breakdown that shows other household sizes, scroll down to the bottom of this article. ]

The agenda provides the following rents for those households making 50 percent or less, but it doesn't contextualize them by household size.

» 14 studio apartments priced at $621

» 29 one-bedroom apartments priced at $665

» 7 two-bedrooms at $795

The other 201 apartments of St. John's Square presumably will be market-rate; the agenda does not list the other rents.

The eight-story St. John's Square development is being developed by Dennis McDaniel of Austin and the San Antonio Housing Authority. Courtesy Mark Odom Studio Courtesy Mark Odom Studio

The McDaniel-SAHA partnership is pursuing 4 percent low-income housing tax credits to help fund the project, which the City Council unanimously supported this morning. The partnership is expected to procure the tax credits, which are worth an estimated $4.4 million over 10 years, in September.

As opposed to other deals in which SAHA partners with a developer, the land here appears to be staying under the ownership of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, which stands just east of the site at 502 E. Nueva St.

In other public-private partnerships, SAHA has essentially owned the land via a governmental nonprofit it controls called a public facility corporation (PFC). Under state law, the PFC allows whatever is built on the property tax exempt status for as long as the PFC owns the land—to the benefit savings-wise of whoever builds the thing, i.e. the developer. Look at the St. Mary's Tower, and SAHA's partnership with Dallas developer JMJ, as such an example.

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The St. John's Square partnership, however, appears to be structured differently. McDaniel told the Heron last year that he, through his company Weal Development LLC, signed a 99-year lease with the church. SAHA could contribute in other ways, such as the issuing of tax-exempt bonds, through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Opportunity Zone designation, or the procurement of a HUD 221(d)(4) mortgage loan.

The city is contributing $3.2 million in incentives, $2.3 million in rebates for city property taxes over 15 years, from the Center City Housing Incentive Policy. View the CCHIP agreement here.

The development includes 6,000 square feet of retail space, which will include a restaurant, according to the agenda.

SAHA officials did not grant an interview for this article. McDaniel could not be reached for comment Thursday morning.

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Related:
» St. John's Square gets initial nod from design commission
» St. John's Square would offer workforce housing near La Villita
» SAHA board gives nod to build St. Mary's Tower with Dallas developer JMJ

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The area median income (AMI) for a family of four in the greater San Antonio area (Bandera, Bexar, Comal, Guadalupe and Wilson counties) is $71,000, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Courtesy city of San Antonio

[ Do you live near downtown? We want to know your story—whether you're a homeowner or renter, whether you've lived in the neighborhood for 30 years or three months. Read more, or email us. ]

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

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