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Old Posted Sep 21, 2007, 11:03 AM
SAguy SAguy is offline
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Visions painted of a renewed downtown S.A.

Visions painted of a renewed downtown S.A.

Web Posted: 09/20/2007 08:14 PM CDT

Rachel Stone
Express-News Business Writer

A few of the players in the redevelopment of downtown gave some real estate professionals insight into their projects at the Downtown Housing Summit, presented Thursday at Sunset Station by the San Antonio Young Real Estate Professionals.

The event was sponsored in part by the San Antonio Express-News.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff spoke about the San Antonio River Improvement Project, including River North, which he described as "the most important public works project of our time," to the crowd of 250.

The project calls for expanding the River Walk for four miles north of downtown to the Witte Museum and nine miles south of downtown to Mission Espada. It's expected to cost more than $216 million during the next five years, with about $50 million coming from private funding.

The project, which already is under way, will create the nation's largest linear park with an amphitheater, ball fields and social gathering areas. And it will offer "more opportunities for people to get up off of the couch," Wolff said.

He compared the River Walk of the future to Austin's Town Lake, which is an attraction for runners, walkers and cyclists and which draws a mix of local residents and tourists, he said.

Darryl Byrd of Silver Ventures, the company behind the Pearl Brewery redevelopment, emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships in shaping downtown.

For example, Silver Ventures paid for and built an underground drainage system for the flood-prone area surrounded by U.S. 281 and Grayson Street near the Pearl Brewery site. The system to improve city streets benefits the public as well as the developer.

The company also is "paying a $1.3 million premium" to install solar power grids on the roof of an office and residential building in the Pearl Brewery, but CPS Energy is picking up $400,000 of that tab.

Overall, the Pearl project will comprise between 1.2 million and 1.7 million square feet of retail, office, educational and residential space, Byrd said. And between 700 and 1,000 people will live there.

"This is for me and you and our kids," he said. "And if the tourists find out about it, that's wonderful."

James Lifshutz talked about Southtown and King William, adjacent neighborhoods that have been undergoing a revival since the late 1960s.

The Blue Star Arts Complex, which Lifshutz's father developed in the late 1980s, was the first large-scale multifamily development in that area.

"Now there's a whole lot of multifamily properties that are under way or in the pipeline," he said.

Several high-end condominium projects are taking shape in the area near South Alamo and South Flores streets. And Lifshutz is redeveloping the old St. Benedict's Hospital site on South Alamo Street with partners Steve Yndo and Christopher Hill.

That project will include 66 condos and a restaurant.

Jeff Rochelle is developing the Vidorra condo towers east of U.S. 281 north of Commerce Street.

He's partnered with the Presidian Cos., and said the partners decided to build the project after a study they commissioned showed that there is strong demand for downtown housing.

Some have doubted a high-end residential project could work on the East Side of downtown. But Rochelle knows otherwise.

Thanks to a multimillion-dollar marketing and advertising budget, sales have been successful, Rochelle said.

Six townhomes and more than half of the units in the first tower have pre-sold, with prices ranging from about $400,000 to more than $1.2 million.

In fact, Rochelle is so sure of Vidorra's long-term success he's made sure the view from its towers stays the same. The partners bought up all of the air rights between the towers and downtown so nothing can obstruct the scenery.
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