California developer Catellus chosen to finish building on old Victoria Courts site

by Ben OlivoMay 21, 2020
victoria commons site may 2020
Townhomes are planned for this swath of land in the Lavaca neighborhood. Photo by Ben Olivo | Heron

The San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) has chosen Catellus of Oakland, Calif., to begin the master planning process for the final phase of Victoria Commons, the multiphase development that's been ongoing since the former Victoria Courts public housing complex was demolished in 2001.

So far, 503 homes, mostly mixed-income apartments, have been built on the 36-acre property cluster southeast of I-37 and East César E. Chávez Boulevard, and south of Hemisfair.

In 1-2 months, construction on a 220-unit mixed-income apartment building known as 100 Labor Street is expected to begin, according to SAHA officials. SAHA has partnered with local developer Franklin Companies on the project.

Details are scarce on the final phase because Catellus still has about a year's worth of due diligence to do on the roughly 9 acres of remaining vacant land—surveying, a traffic study, a market study, rezoning, etc. SAHA and Catellus officials said the new housing will likely be townhomes and maybe apartments. The price points are also unknown.

"We recognize that SAHA has affordable housing across the city," Tim Alcott, SAHA's real estate and legal services officer, said Tuesday during a Lavaca Neighborhood Association meeting held via web conferencing. "We want to make sure we develop funds here so we can provide affordable housing, not just at this site but across the city."

victoria commons site map

During the meeting, Greg Weaver, Catellus executive vice president, told community members the year-long assessment will strive for a diversity of building types, explore ways to repurpose the adjacent and vacant SAHA administrative building, and look to potentially add more park space to the area.

From 2007 to 2008, SAHA build Artisan Park on the property, 22 for-sale townhomes—three were priced as affordable housing. Now all 22 homes are market rate, Alcott said. The remaining lots were platted, had utility lines installed and streets paved, for 100 townhomes, but the project was scrapped amid the 2007-2008 recession.

In 2015, SAHA sold 26 of the lots on Leigh Street, which separate Victoria Commons from the rest of Lavaca, to single-family developers. All but two of those homes have been completed, according to Lavaca neighbors.

Also on the site are the 210-unit Refugio Place (completed in 2004) and the 245-unit Hemisview Village (2020) apartments.

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During the meeting, Lavaca residents mostly applauded the new development. Some, however, aired concerns via chat about traffic congestion and that a nearby park be kept intact.

Before the meeting via email, Refugio Place resident Maureen Galindo, a housing advocate who's part of a committee that advises the city on its rental and mortgage assistance program, told Alcott and other public officials the residents of the adjacent apartments, many of whom rent affordable housing units, should have been invited to the meeting.

"It would be entirely inequitable for the Lavaca (Neighborhood Association) to be accessing Victoria Commons plans before SAHA did the outreach effort for my neighbors here at Victoria Commons," Galindo wrote.

In response, Alcott said SAHA had been invited to Lavaca's monthly neighborhood meeting, and that SAHA would eventually host community outreach meetings when public orders related to Covid-19 allow it.

Built in 1940, the Victoria Courts, which were demolished nearly 20 years ago, was composed of 796 public housing units.

Among Catellus' notable master developments is the Mueller project in Austin, the 700-acre former municipal airport site.

The partnership between SAHA and Catellus, which has an office in Austin, is not yet final. By year's end, it is expected to be formalized via a master development agreement.

[ Setting it straight: An earlier version of this article misstated that Victoria Commons and the Lavaca neighborhood are separate communities. Lavaca's boundaries encompass Victoria Commons.]

» SAHA’s Labor Street apartments get final design approval
» SAHA plans to add fourth development between Hemisfair and Lavaca

Contact Ben Olivo at 210-421-3932 | | @rbolivo on Twitter

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