San Antonio planning facelift for downtown
River North will be entirely overhauled in a new project that aims to revamp the area and make it an integral part of the life and culture of the city’s core, rather than a ghost town that people avoided at all costs. The project is finally underway following the injection of over US$24 million in funding for the overhaul.
There are scores of abandoned and rundown buildings in the area to be rebuilt as part of the 1221 Broadway Project, which will see River North turned into a bustling mixed-use residential and commercial area. Twenty-one buildings are due to be rebuilt into 19 apartment blocks, one office building and a multi-storey car park.
Spearheaded by O'Neil Conrad Oppelt Architects and Cross and Company, a local real estate developer and brokerage firm, the project was meant for launch in 2004, but issues with securing finance delayed 1221 Broadway, which had initially been proposed by a different developer that encountered legal issues that undermined investor confidence in the project.
1221 Broadway Project in its current form, however, is headed by two large and respected local heavyweights and the setting up of scaffolding, the closing off of roads, delivery of equipment and materials and all the other activity that suggests work is going ahead, has ignited considerable interest and excitement among the city’s property moguls.
Around 268 residential units will be built, with just over ten units in each building. In addition, the public space around the buildings, the roads, sidewalks, utilities and other public areas such as parks, will be improved as well. This is due to the nature of the financing.
The US$24 million loan for the project was secured through New York-based Rockhall Funding Corp., a commercial mortgage bank that specializes in apartment and health care lending. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved the loan and insured it through the Federal Housing Administration, meaning that they would be responsible in the event that the loan cannot be paid back, which reveals the extent to which the lines between the private and public sector have become blurred in the wake of the financial downturn.
A further incentive for developers to improve public property in the 4.5 acre River North was the setting aside of property tax for the first ten years after the developments completion, according to San Antonia news reports, which is expected to be in late 2011.
The 1221 Broadway Project is a huge success for the city, property analysts have said, because it will recreate what has been an eyesore for many years, casting a shadow over the downtown area, but also the wider city, as it is one of the first parts of the city seen when driving in from the airport, creating a negative first impression.
The project is significant then, but is also dwarfed by the enormity of the grander San Antonio River Improvements Project, of which the 1221 Broadway Project is not a formal part, but will certainly play a significant role.
This massive infrastructure and community-upliftment and improvement mega-project comprises several large projects aimed at investing in the future of the river, upgrading flood control systems, amenities, ecosystem restoration activities and performing recreational improvements to the San Antonio River.
The US$350 million strategy aims to redevelop the banks of the river and maintain its precedence as a focal point of the community. Funded by Bexar County, the City of San Antonio, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) and the San Antonio River Foundation, the project is due for completion in 2012.
Its ongoing progress was likely a great support to developers seeking funding for the 1221 Broadway Project, as the area forms an integral part of the Museum Reach segment of the San Antonio River Improvements Project, which includes the extension of the river walk into River North in order to better integrate the area with the greater ‘San Antonio experience’, according to press material released to San Antonio news media.
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