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Old Posted Mar 3, 2017, 12:14 AM
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sirkingwilliam sirkingwilliam is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2007
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The recent surge of large-scale development in downtown San Antonio is about to spill over for the first time into Denver Heights, a neighborhood just south of the Alamodome that struggles with urban blight and crime.

Local developer Efraim Varga and investment firm Harris Bay of Sacramento, California, plan to start work by the end of the year on Essex Modern City, a $150 million mixed-use development at the crossing of Essex and Cherry streets. The first phase of the 8-acre project will transform a former pallet manufacturing site into 80,000 square feet of creative office space, 65,000 square feet of retail, 248 apartments, 160 condominiums, 80 townhomes and a food hall, the developers said Thursday.

“It’s going to be a catalyst for the neighborhood,” Varga said. “It’s going to do exactly what the Pearl did, and bring in more developers.”

The project’s first phase will take about three years to build and will cover about 5 acres, Varga said. It will be all new construction except for a small 1930s building that will be rehabilitated. The scope of the second phase will depend on the market, but the developers hope to build a condo tower between eight and 11 stories tall, he said.

Varga and his partners plan to differentiate the project from other mixed-use developments, such as the Pearl and the Lone Star Brewery, with flourishes such as a rock climbing wall, murals painted by local artists, a mobile app allowing visitors to reserve parking and “vertical farms” on building exteriors that would grow vegetables for use in restaurants.

The developers want to recruit local and Texas-based companies for the retail space, said Jake Harris, co-founder of Harris Bay. Their retail strategy is the opposite of the tack taken by the team redeveloping the Lone Star Brewery, which has signed up national chains such as Cinemark Holdings and Punch Bowl Social. The two developments, which are less than a mile apart, will complement each other, Harris and Varga said.

“I think retail space is going to struggle if it’s a chain restaurant or if it’s something the internet can take away,” Harris said. “There’s a whole lot of Starbucks, CVSes and AMC movie theaters.”

The developers are hoping to attract tech companies to lease the creative office space, Varga said, which would make the project part of downtown San Antonio’s growing tech scene. They’re in talks with other firms that would build the multifamily portion of the project.

CREO, a local architecture firm led by Kris Feldmann, is leading the design of the project.
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