County Oks Incentives for Mixed-use Development Near Downtown San Antonio, will Help Replace Blight

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San Antonio Express News | Madison Iszler, Staff writer

A pair of San Antonio developers are aiming to finish construction next year of a mixed-use development off a major corridor heading into downtown.

The project — on a roughly 5-acre site off U.S. 281 and about two blocks north of the Pearl — replaces self-storage facilities and billboard-type signs long seen as a blight on the “front door” to downtown from the North Side.

Embrey Partners is building a 338-unit apartment complex on the 800 block of East Ashby Place, and Area Real Estate is renovating the former Borden Creamery warehouse for office and retail space.

Embrey and Area Real Estate plan to invest up to $90 million in the development, according to documents prepared for a Bexar County commissioners meeting Tuesday.

They also will plug at least $3 million into improvements to the River Walk and East Ashby Place, including building a bridge over the river and a trail near the development.

County officials gave the green light Tuesday to a 60 percent tax abatement on eligible capital investments worth $1.3 million over a 10-year term. They also approved $750,000 for infrastructure improvements along the river.

The City Council in 2019 approved $4 million from the Midtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone for upgrades that include river work and tearing down billboards along the highway.

Tax increment reinvestment zones reimburse developers for infrastructure upgrades from property tax revenue.

Embrey’s project is being built in phases and is expected to be finished by the end of 2022, said spokesman Jeff Cowart.

David Adelman of Area Real Estate is using federal and state tax credits to rehabilitate the mustard-colored Borden building, which he is also seeking to have designated a historic landmark.

The Art Deco-style building was constructed in 1933 and designed by Ayres and Ayres, according to materials city staff prepared for a Historic and Design Review Commission meeting earlier this summer.

The creamery was expanded over the years. It had been dormant except for refrigeration units that were leased before Star Storage purchased it in 1999 for storage facilities.

Work to turn it into office and retail space is expected to wrap up in nine months, Adelman said.

The design process for the building was slowed due to the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the leasing of office space, but Adelman said he is confident demand will bounce back.

He said employers have indicated that early gains in productivity from remote work have been lost and at least some workers are ready to return to their offices after more than a year.

“I think in the long run it will come back,” Adelman said.

The transformation of the former Pearl brewery has set off a wave of activity in the area. A flurry of other apartments, town houses and offices is in the works.

Jefferson Bank is constructing a headquarters building on Broadway, and Pearl developer Silver Ventures is eyeing more apartments across the San Antonio River from the complex.

SABOT Development, a firm based in the Austin area, plans to build a 10-story mixed-use development on most of a block bounded by Euclid, Myrtle, Elmira and Locust streets. The family behind Terry Black’s BBQ in Austin and Dallas recently bought about 1.4 acres at 2100 Broadway for a mixed-use development.