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Old Posted Oct 23, 2007, 12:43 AM
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SA: Best of Both Worlds? Article on Some Mixed-Use Developments in SA

The best of all worlds?

Web Posted: 10/19/2007 06:24 PM CDT

Creighton A. Welch
Express-News Business Writer


Along South Alamo Street, the King William neighborhood and the Blue Star Art Complex draw thousands of visitors and residents. But there's a hole in the middle, and Steve Yndo has stepped up to fill the void.

Yndo, owner of Yndo Commercial Real Estate, is helping redevelop the former St. Benedict's Hospital into an amalgam of residences, offices and shops. When finished in one year, it will offer 66 for-sale residential and live-work units, a restaurant and space for retail and galleries.

It's a mixed-use project, and similar developments are starting to creep up all over the San Antonio area.

"Hopefully, this will serve more as a community center and be a link from one end of the street to the other end," Yndo said.

Mixed-use projects sound like the best of all worlds. Luxurious homes are within sight of trendy shops and a short distance from the workplace. No more sitting in traffic or missing an hour of work to grab some food. It's where living meets entertainment meets work.

"It's an amenity to be able to walk out your door and have some interaction and stuff going on," Yndo said. Residents "want to be part of a community, and they don't mind being exposed to the different lifestyles."

For four years, Julie Hooper lived and worked in the King William Lofts on Guenther Street. Hooper still lives in King William, but in a house now, separate from her business, King William Realty.

For Hooper, one of the main benefits for being in a mixed-use type environment was the close-knit neighborhood.

"This is a real neighborhood where neighbors care about each other," she said. "Certainly location is always a huge factor. People move here because they want a certain lifestyle. There is something for everybody."

The all-in-one lifestyle did have its challenges for Hooper.

"It made it a little difficult in the evening to separate your work and home lives," she said.

Some of those same issues mean developers of mixed-use projects will have to hash out small details and overcome challenges.

"There cannot be a successful mixed-use project on every corner of the city," said Charles Hodges, principal at Dallas-based Hodges & Associates architecture firm. "There are a lot of nuances in mixed use. It takes a tremendous amount of cooperation."

That cooperation needs to involve the city, developers and retailers, said Hodges, whose company helped design the Quarry.

"The first thing we really want to get is a sense of, is the government on board?" said Barry Rosenberg, president of Steiner and Associates, a development company that specializes in small town centers and mixed-use projects.

These projects require funding, and in cases like San Antonio, are new concepts that may take extra consideration.

"We need to have special zoning," Hodges said. "A zone of open-mindedness."

Hodges said some projects in San Antonio have been difficult because of zoning rules dictating low density and mandating a certain amount of open spaces.

For many developers, the mixed-use process relies on the shopping.

"It has to work first and foremost for retailers," said Kirk Rudy, principal at Austin-based Endeavor Real Estate Group.

Rudy helped develop the Domain in Austin, which opened earlier this year. It's a massive mixed-use project spanning 300 acres that has retail, office and family units. Rudy said some of its qualities include walkability, sustainability and connectivity.

Businesses have been the first to move in at San Antonio's Pearl Brewery. Some apartments are nearly ready, but entrepreneurs kicked off the mixed-use project.

"Those are the crazy people, the ones with the vision who are willing to step out there," said Adelle Brownlee Brewer.

"I really believe in their philosophy of adaptive reuse," Brewer said. " And I'm very much into their philosophy of creating a community."

Since Synergy Studio already had an established client base, Brewer transitioned smoothly into the new location. The big challenge for her has been making sure customers don't show up at the old studio. In just one week, Brewer has more than 20 new clients and she has given nearly 100 tours to people visiting the new location.

The retail spaces bring in short-term customers, but they also have a broader effect on a project.

"Once we create the right retail, we create the potential for office and residential," Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg has seen a wide range of people moving into these mixed-use units, such as professionals, empty nesters and divorced people. Ultimately, they are people who want to be in the middle of a neighborhood but close to shopping and working.

"You have to shape development with the right tenant mix," Hodges said. "Mixed use is a social experiment as much as it is a retail experiment."

Once the retailers have set up shop and the residents have moved in, the development must foster that relationship.

"One challenge is on the people who are running their own operations to be on good terms with the residents around them," Yndo said. At St. Benedict's, "the spaces are going to be owned by the people operating, so there's more incentive for them to be on good terms."

Noise from retail also can pose challenges for residents. Some restaurants may want to play music or have live shows that others do not want to hear. There are some solutions, such as double-paned glass or separation walls, but ultimately people will have to live with some noise.

"We will do what we can to mitigate sound, but you're buying into the vision," said Rudy, the Austin developer. "It would be foolish to say people won't have to deal with sounds."

With all the facets of a bustling new mixed-use center, there likely will be transportation issues. The parking shouldn't be a deterrent for outside shoppers or people visiting the offices, but it's also important to design with residents in mind.

"The big challenge we have is parking and traffic," Rosenberg said. "There are different groups with different parking requirements."

Including parking, Hodges said it is important to create the mixed-use projects in steps, and to slowly transform portions of the project.

"You have to take it a block at a time, then you'll evolve," he said.

These are some of the mixed-use developments in the works in the San Antonio area:

St. Benedict's Hospital
•On South Alamo Street
•99,000 square feet with 66 residential units, restaurant and retail
•Under construction, opens fall 2008

Quarry Village
•On Basse Road
•12.74 acres, 280 apartments, 70,000 square feet of retail
•Under construction, phase one opens summer 2008

Cresta Bella
•At Interstate 10 and Camp Bullis Road
•400 acres with 130 acres of retail and office, 400 single-family homes, 750 multifamily units
•Broke ground in February

Cevallos Street
•Near South Flores Street
•500 apartments, 20,000 square feet of retail
•Still in development and design

Pearl Brewery
•At U.S. Highway 281 and Interstate 35
•1.2 million square feet of retail, office and residential, 700 residents
•Some retail open, some residences nearing completion

Sundance Park
•In New Braunfels
•Independent living cottages, 50-unit assisted living center, 260 apartment units and health-care facilities.
•Construction begins end of 2007

The Quarry Village is currently under construction.

The St. Benedict's project is a work in progress in the King William neighborhood.

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