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Three Developments Relying on Zoning Variances to Move Forward

Requesting a zoning variance can be a grating experience for some individuals, especially if it’s about a large development that has aroused debate within the community.  Even so, close to the center of San Antonio, three separate real estate partnerships remain optimistic they can transform their part of town through such measures as special use permits.  Here are three spotlighting examples of development projects applying for zoning variances and special use permits.

Urban Crest Rendering Courtesy of Baake Development Corp.
Urban Crest Rendering Courtesy of Baake Development Corp.

One developer recently got over a major obstacle. On April 7, the city’s zoning board of adjustment unanimously approved a variance requested by Bakke Development Corp. The move allows Phil Bakke’s Urban Crest development to reach a height of 44 feet, 9 inches.  This means the luxury apartment complex, already under construction on Harry Wurzbach, would pass the maximum 40-foot building height imposed in 2012 by the Austin Highway/Harry Wurzbach Metropolitan Corridor Overlay District.

Urban Crest Under Construction
Urban Crest Under Construction

Bakke, a local developer, secured the property, formerly the site of the beleaguered El Chapparal apartment complex, in 2007.  The following year, the new property owners acquired development preservation rights, maintaining the multi-family use of 47 residential units per acre at the site.  Demolition of El Chapparal started in 2010, followed by construction of Urban Crest.  Urban Crest is 232 units, or 40 units per acre, across two main buildings.  Some neighbors in the immediate Oak Park/Northwood area expressed concern that Urban Crest being allowed a full fourth floor would mean higher density that might adversely affect area traffic, parking, drainage, privacy, and noise and air pollution.

1111 Austin Hwy Renderings, Courtesy of 1111 Austin Hwy
1111 Austin Hwy Renderings, Courtesy of 1111 Austin Hwy

Other neighbors, supporters of Bakke, said the new development is a vast improvement over what was previously on the property.  They added that in conjunction with other projects under way such as 1111 Austin Highway, Urban Crest would help revitalization efforts along nearby Austin Highway, and even provide a positive housing option for personnel at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.

Renderings courtesy of PSW
Renderings courtesy of PSW

In Olmos Park, representatives for PSW Real Estate hope local residents and leaders are more informed about their proposed single-family home development ahead of a final vote on a requested special use permit.  In a recent San Antonio Express-News story, Ross Wilson, PSW’s community development director, said his company is working with city staff to come to a consensus on what conditions would make the project more palatable to the city council and neighboring residents.  PSW has requested zoning variances to build 18 single-family houses in place of multi-family units that currently sit on six lots in the 300 and 400 blocks of East Olmos Drive.

Proposed lot layout, courtesy of PSW
Proposed lot layout, courtesy of PSW

According to Wilson, PSW has made many modifications to the project, and will entertain other recommendations to address concerns about parking, traffic, setbacks, drainage and architectural compatibility.  The city’s website has the most recent information regarding PSW’s proposed project, including renderings of optional designs that could comply with current city ordinances.  In the same Express-News story, council members such as Jeff Judson said improvements have been made to the plan that could help to win over more supporters.

In Alamo Heights, officials and residents are recovering from a debate about a mixed-use midrise that Dallas developer Alamo Manhattan had proposed for Austin Highway and Broadway.  Although the Alamo Heights City Council tentatively approved a special use permit for that project, many of the conditions in that permit made the project financially non-feasible, according to the developers.  Alamo Manhattan then terminated its purchase contract for the property, which includes a mix of private and public land.  Dilapidated, abandoned structures presently sit on the private property.  Now, Broadway Ellwood Co., which owns property at Ellwood and Austin Highway, near Broadway, has announced its intent to demolish existing underutilized buildings.

In a letter posted to the Alamo Heights city website, members of the ownership group said the condition of those structures is deteriorating rapidly. They added they would consider the idea of donating any of those houses if possible. Broadway Ellwood welcomes other recommendations by via email, broadwayellwood@gmail.com, about future usage of the property.

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