A local developer has purchased three historic homes in King William from Mike Casey—known as the “Mayor of Southtown” for his patronage of the neighborhood’s art community—with plans to convert two of them into Airbnb rentals.
The developer, Chris Coker, and a partner bought the three homes at the northwest corner of South St. Mary’s and Stieren streets, near The Good Kind restaurant and event space, on Sept. 23, county deed records show. The price was undisclosed, but the entity they formed to buy the property, Casey Project LLC, took out a loan of $900,000 to make the purchase.
The homes were once part of a small arts community known as The Compound, which Casey established in the 1990s, according to a page on the website for the Blue Star Arts Complex tracing the history of the Southtown art scene. A fourth home, which Casey had owned next door at 517 Stieren St., now functions as the headquarters of Sala Diaz, an art nonprofit.
The board members of Sala Diaz are discussing the possibility of buying one of the homes which Coker purchased, 521 Stieren St., to use as expansion space, said Ethel Shipton, the board’s president.
“Everything’s just in the talking stages. It’s all hopes and dreams at the moment,” Shipton said. “We’re a very, very small nonprofit. We’ll just have to see if it works.”
Founded in 1995, Sala Diaz offers space for exhibitions of contemporary art. It also has a residency program for writers allowing them to spend a month living in Casa Chuck, the former residence of arts advocate Chuck Ramirez, who died in 2010 from a cycling accident, located behind the nonprofit’s main building.
The nonprofit has lately been hosting a poet-in-residence, Clemonce Heard, and has held an exhibition celebrating its 26-year archive, which is being donated to the University of Texas at San Antonio, according to its Facebook and Instagram accounts.
“Sometimes, expansion is good; sometimes it’s the wrong thing to do,” Shipton said. “We want to make sure we step in the right place. It’s always a good time to see what you can do, make it better.”
Known for riding a bicycle while wearing his signature get-up of a bow tie and seersucker suit, Casey, who is a retired attorney, has been involved in the Southtown arts community since moving to the neighborhood in 1972, according to news reports. In June, he celebrated his 80th birthday with an extravaganza at the Espee, formerly known as Sunset Station.
Coker said that the two homes he plans to renovate will need to be almost completely redone, requiring work on their foundations, their roofs, and their electrical and plumbing systems.
“They’re in really bad shape,” Coker said. “The only thing that will look the same is the exterior.”
He owns two other homes which he has renovated into Airbnb rentals. One of them is across the street from the property he just purchased and the other is in Government Hill, near the crossing of Glouchester and Rogers streets.
Richard Webner is a freelance journalist covering Austin and San Antonio, and a former San Antonio Express-News business reporter. Follow him at @RWebner on Twitter