By Richard Webner | @RWebner | Heron contributor
Houston multifamily developer Urban Genesis is tightening its hold on North St. Mary’s Street with the purchase of a 0.6-acre vacant lot, down the street from the San Antonio Museum of Art, where it plans to build apartments.
On March 7, an entity linked with the developer bought the lot, beside the Super 8 by Wyndham hotel to the north and beside Armadillo Boulders to the east at the northeast corner of the crossing of North St. Mary’s and Camden streets, county deed records show. It’s also across the street from El Nogal Mexican Restaurant.
The purchase comes about six months after Urban Genesis bought three properties encompassing a total of two acres on and around North St. Mary’s in Tobin Hill, including a lot beside The Lonesome Rose bar, and another across the street from developer David Adelman’s Midtown Station retail center, home to Ming’s Chinese restaurant, among other tenants.
[ Related: Houston developer Urban Genesis adding 160 apartments around the St. Mary’s Strip | Sept. 15, 2021
Matt Shafiezadeh, a principal with Urban Genesis, said on Thursday that the new property would be “pretty much an extension of the same business plan,” which the firm described to the Heron upon buying the land last year.
The firm plans to build 180 apartments on the properties, with construction starting around the third quarter of this year, Shafiezadeh said. The apartment buildings will be four stories tall or less, he said.
The buildings will follow what Urban Genesis has branded the “Highline” model in Houston: By including fewer amenities than at many large apartment complexes, the firm will be able to offer lower rents.
Tobin Hill is a good place for the model because it has coffee shops and other retail options that are already there for residents to enjoy. In the case of the newest property, it is a short walk from the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Tre Trattoria restaurant on museum property. It’s also a stone’s throw away from Man Overboard Brewing Company on Camden, along the Museum Reach stretch of the river, and the Pearl beyond that.
“We really like the Tobin Hill neighborhood, and we’d in fact be interested in acquiring more properties, so long as they’re large enough,” Shafiezadeh said. “We view it as a highly-amenitized location that can access the Pearl district but also the jobs downtown. I personally love the St. Mary’s Strip.”
The apartment buildings will feature different designs, he said.
“They’ll be cool and different, and have some common elements. We like to use bricks,” he said. “We like to have a lot of different materials on there. I’m very excited about the designs.”
Urban Genesis, which has developed numerous high-end apartment buildings in Austin, Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth, took out a $1.16 million loan from Jefferson Bank as part of this month’s purchase, county records show. It took out loans of $2.21 million and $1.13 million from that bank last year to purchase the properties in Tobin Hill.
The developer’s most recent purchase is across the street from the Museum Reach Lofts, an affordable housing complex completed in 2020 by the nonprofit Alamo Community Group. It is only a block from the Museum Reach stretch of the River Walk, which has acted as a lightning rod for development since it was built around 2010, hosting numerous apartment complexes and restaurants such as Elsewhere Garden Bar & Kitchen and the newly-open Shiro Japanese Bistro.
The east side of Tobin Hill, between the San Antonio River and St. Mary’s, has also been catching the eyes of developers as the Pearl’s growth spills west. Last summer, Austin developer Sabot Development won approval from the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission to build a $100 million, 10-story mixed-use project at the southwest corner of Locust and Elmira streets, with 299 apartments and 12,000 square feet of retail.
Two mid-rise apartment buildings are set to rise soon in the area: Silver Ventures, the developer of the Pearl, plans to build a seven-story complex on East Elmira Street, while a partnership between the Lynd Co. and the San Antonio Housing Authority plans to build a six-story complex at 120 W. Josephine St.
Urban Genesis is still looking for properties in the area, Shafiezadeh said.
“Ideally, we’d get two or three more and then call it a day,” he said.
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
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