Spotlight on The Pearl Brewery complex

News 4 WOAI recently did a great story on all of the wonderful things happening at The Pearl Brewery complex. This revitalized space is quickly establishing itself as the anchor point for the Northern expansion of the downtown core and the Riverwalk. This is one place you need to check out!

Running through East Side History

I took part in the King Willliam/Lavaca 5K History Run back in May and was embarrassed at my lack of ability to keep up with the runners. It has clearly been years since my days of running track in high school!! I wish I would have known there were multiple groups on this “run.” I would have taken the “moms with strollers” walk!
San Antonio’s Office of Historic Preservation is doing a great job of engaging the public and creating fun events to learn about this city’s history.

This is a nice write-up of the event by John Tedesco with the Express-News.

There are many ways to learn about a city and its history — but not many involve putting on a jogging outfit and trying to keep up with Amy Unger.
On Saturday, about 45 people showed up for a three-mile run through the East Side near downtown, which offered a unique perspective of a struggling neighborhood that many people simply glimpse at on their way to Spurs games.

“I’ve lived in San Antonio my entire life and really don’t know anything about the neighborhood,” said jogger Sarah Deosdade.

Unger and her other fit colleagues at the city’s Office of Historic Preservation have been leading runners on tours through historic parts of San Antonio. They started the free program in May, Historic Preservation Month.

District 2 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor invited the city’s history experts to explore the East Side, home of the grand houses of Dignowity Hill and the recently restored Hays Street Bridge.

Participants gathered at the Carver Community Cultural Center and had the option of tagging along with Unger or two other guides. Some joggers who showed up looked like triathletes, but the program is for everyone — the slowest group walked and a few people pushed children in strollers.

The three groups set out at 7:30 a.m. and stopped periodically to hear a brief history lesson, like the one on Dignowity Hill. Unger pointed out a tall, well-kept house.

“Edward Friedrich — we saw his massive air conditioning company — he lived in this house here, this yellow house, which is a really excellent example of the Queen Anne style,” she said.

One theme of the tour was the impact of freeways built in the 1960s that segmented downtown and cut off neighborhoods.

“Large freeways were driven through the heart of many of our cities,” Unger said, speaking above the soft roar of traffic on nearby U.S. 281. “It cut off a lot of neighborhoods from downtown, and that’s when you saw a lot of the urban decay that kind of peaked in the 1980s.”

When three noisy tour buses interrupted her talk during another part of the jog, Unger laughed and pointed out how much more people can learn about a community just by being outside.

“Wouldn’t you much rather be out on the ground, getting a workout?” she asked. “You get to see so much more.”

Hays Street Bridge Opens

The reopening of this bridge to bike and foot traffic provides a much needed connection for the revitalizing East Side and Downtown. Great article by Colin McDonald.

After 28 years of barricades, demolition threats, ownership disputes and fundraising shortfalls, the Hays Street Bridge is open again.
On Tuesday, several hundred East Side residents, bicycle riders, engineers, historic preservationists and politicians gathered on a concrete ramp to the bridge to mark its rebirth as a bike-and- pedestrian passageway.

“We are here to welcome this old lady back,” said East Side advocate Nettie Hinton, just before cutting the ribbon to the restored span, which stretches from Austin Street to near Cherry Street.

The new bridge decking creaked under the weight of the crowd as it admired the fist-sized bolts from the 1880s and the view of downtown San Antonio.

Doug Steadman, who spent the past 10 years working alongside Hinton to save the bridge, just smiled.

“What a beautiful place to have parties,” he said the day before as he walked the bridge. “Maybe even a wedding.”

It’s been a long transition.

In 1982, the wrought-iron bridge was deemed too dangerous for vehicles and closed.

The bridge owner and the city’s code compliance office talked of demolition.

That’s when Hinton started her campaign and petition to save the bridge. The San Antonio Conservation Society threw its political clout behind the effort.

In 1999, Steadman was “bit by the bridge bug,” as Hinton put it, after hearing about a bridge restoration in Waco. He and his wife, Jurene were as tireless as Hinton.

“The preservationists were shamelessly persistent,” said architect Ann McGlone, who was San Antonio’s historic preservation officer from 1993 to 2008.

Hinton grew up listening to the clatter of the bridge’s wooden deck every time a car drove it and could not imagine the East Side without it.

For Steadman, 83, the elegance of the 19th century Whipple-Phoenix span, held together with pins, was too important to let slip away.

To help save it, the bridge was designated a historic structure by the city, the state and the Texas Historical Commission. Fundraisers were held and $200,000 was raised toward the $3.7 million total cost. A federal grant paid the remainder.

Reconstruction began in May 2009.

Now there are promises from the city of more bike lanes and sidewalks to connect with the bridge.

Hinton has her eye on the 1.5 acres of land below the bridge, and she told the crowd Tuesday there was plenty of work left to be done.

“We have a park to develop,” she said.

White flight? Suburbs lose young whites to cities

Informative article from Associated Press writer Hope Yen. I’m really liking the term “bright flight” as the counter movement to “white flight.”

White flight? In a reversal, America’s suburbs are now more likely to be home to minorities, the poor and a rapidly growing older population as many younger, educated whites move to cities for jobs and shorter commutes.
An analysis of 2000-2008 census data by the Brookings Institution highlights the demographic “tipping points” seen in the past decade and the looming problems in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, which represent two-thirds of the U.S. population.
The findings could offer an important road map as political parties, including the tea party movement, seek to win support in suburban battlegrounds in the fall elections and beyond. In 2008, Barack Obama carried a substantial share of the suburbs, partly with the help of minorities and immigrants.
The analysis being released Sunday provides the freshest detail on the nation’s growing race and age divide, which is now feeding tensions in Arizona over its new immigration law.
Ten states, led by Arizona, surpass the nation in a “cultural generation gap” in which the senior populations are disproportionately white and children are mostly minority.
This gap is pronounced in suburbs of fast-growing areas in the Southwest, including those in Florida, California, Nevada, and Texas.
“A new metro map is emerging in the U.S. that challenges conventional thinking about where we live and work,” said Alan Berube, research director with the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, a nonpartisan think-tank based in Washington. “The old concepts of suburbia, Sun Belt and Rust Belt are outdated and at odds with effective governance.”
Suburbs still tilt white. But, for the first time, a majority of all racial and ethnic groups in large metro areas live outside the city. Suburban Asians and Hispanics already had topped 50 percent in 2000, and blacks joined them by 2008, rising from 43 percent in those eight years.
The suburbs now have the largest poor population in the country. They are home to the vast majority of baby boomers age 55 to 64, a fast-growing group that will strain social services after the first wave of boomers turns 65 next year.
Analysts attribute the racial shift to suburbs in many cases to substantial shares of minorities leaving cities, such as blacks from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Whites, too, are driving the trend by returning or staying put in larger cities.
Washington, D.C., and Atlanta posted the largest increases in white share since 2000, each up 5 percentage points to 44 percent and 36 percent, respectively. Other white gains were seen in New York, San Francisco, Boston and cities in another seven of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas.
“A new image of urban America is in the making,” said William H. Frey, a demographer at Brookings who co-wrote the report. “What used to be white flight to the suburbs is turning into ‘bright flight’ to cities that have become magnets for aspiring young adults who see access to knowledge-based jobs, public transportation and a new city ambiance as an attraction.”
“This will not be the future for all cities, but this pattern in front runners like Atlanta, Portland, Ore., Raleigh, N.C., and Austin, Texas, shows that the old urban stereotypes no longer apply,” he said.
The findings are part of Brookings’ broad demographic portrait of America since 2000, when the country experienced the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a historic boom in housing prices and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Calling 2010 the “decade of reckoning,” the report urges policymakers to shed outdated notions of America’s cities and suburbs and work quickly to address the coming problems caused by the dramatic shifts in population.
Among its recommendations: affordable housing and social services for older people in the suburbs; better transit systems to link cities and suburbs; and a new federal Office of New Americans to serve the education and citizenship needs of the rapidly growing immigrant community.
Other findings:
–About 83 percent of the U.S. population growth since 2000 was minority, part of a trend that will see minorities become the majority by midcentury. Across all large metro areas, the majority of the child population is now nonwhite.
–The suburban poor grew by 25 percent between 1999 and 2008 — five times the growth rate of the poor in cities. City residents are more likely to live in “deep” poverty, while a higher share of suburban residents have incomes just below the poverty line.
–For the first time in several decades, the population is growing at a faster rate than households, due to delays in marriage, divorce and births as well as longer life spans. People living alone and nonmarried couple families are among the fastest-growing in suburbs.

Historic meets slick design with a pleasant outcome

My client and I were featured in this recent Express-News article about incorporating contemporary design during renovation of historic properties.  The photo above is of 611 Mission St in King William.  Juan has recently renovated it with a very contemporary kitchen and bathrooms.  It is currently for sale.  Visit my Facebook Business Page ( ) or King William Realty’s website ( ) for more information and photos.

By Jason Buch

From the joining of two unexpected, seemingly opposite mates, great pairings can happen. How about Sonny and Cher, bacon cupcakes or Labradoodles?
Well the home design world is adding another great, albeit unexpected pairing to the list: historic home shells with über-modern interiors.

The effect appeals to those who appreciate the charm of an older home in an established neighborhood, but who are also fans of the sleek, modern aesthetic popularized by such stores as Ikea.

Electrical engineer Juan M. Fernandez is one of the many who have started cleaning up the outside of the homes and sticking in ultra-modern interiors.

“I purchase them in fairly bad condition. However, I try to incorporate new trends in style and energy efficiency,” Fernandez said, “I try to consider them a brand new house with a shell that is historic.”

That means knocking out walls, redesigning kitchens and adding bathrooms and closets.

“I try to do it with a more contemporary, more European style in the inside,” he said. “Some of the houses look bigger than the actual size of the house because of the openness and the light.” Fernandez also adds insulation and puts in energy-efficient features like tankless water heaters, state-of-the-art climate control systems.

Since starting in 2005, Fernandez has focused largely on bungalow-style homes. He just completed his sixth, a 1,898-square-foot house built in the 1920s on Mission Street in Southtown, and No. 7 is under way.

The house on Mission Street, which is listed for $399,000, includes Scavolini Italian kitchen design, quartz countertops and a back deck with planters built into the modern benches.

“It looks very contemporary,” Fernandez said. “We built up a wall, and the microwave and the oven are recessed in the wall, so it’s at the same level with the countertop. And it looks really nice with the kitchen.”

Curtis Bowers, a real estate agent for King William Realty who represents Fernandez, said the contrast between old and new appeals to home buyers.

“I think the things that I see that buyers get the most excited about is the juxtaposition of the exterior historic look of the home, and then they walk in,” Bowers said. “They like to see sleek modern kitchens and updated bathrooms that have nice amenities. Walking into a perfectly restored home doesn’t necessarily have the wow factor that the contemporary interiors do.”

He sold a house earlier this year similar to the one on Mission Street.

“What sold this property was really this sleek, contemporary Ikea kitchen that just jumped out,” Bowers said. “It was something you wouldn’t really expect in a little 950-square-foot bungalow.”

San Antonio architect Jim Poteet has designed modern interiors for historic houses in the Southtown area. A house he designed on Guenther Street was featured last year in the home tour put on by the San Antonio chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

“Actually, those old houses lend themselves to a modern lifestyle, maybe slightly better than some Mid-century houses which are now quite popular,” Poteet said. “But those (Mid-century) houses, there’s almost no way to retrofit them with the closets and bathrooms people are looking for today without extensive additions. Those can be accommodated much better in sort of the room patterns you get in these historic houses.”

The trend isn’t limited to Southtown. Tom Tarrant has been remodeling rundown Craftsman-style homes in the neighborhoods along Broadway and giving them contemporary interiors.

Tarrant said he goes to great lengths to preserve the old exteriors of the homes, even when he builds additions, but gives them modern, open floor plans and master suites. “A remodel of this caliber for a homeowner would be enough to cause a divorce,” Tarrant said.

Since 2008, he’s remodeled a handful of homes in Mahncke Park, and currently is working on another on Post Avenue. Tarrant said he usually sells his homes for $175 per square foot.

The homes provide a high-class living option for people who want to live near downtown, said Debra Maltz, a real estate agent with Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty.

They appeal to “mature people that still want to be in the neighborhood setting and yet be close to where the action is,” Maltz said. “They want to be able to walk, and I guess they have the means to pursue living this way.”

Restoring the older homes and giving them ultra-modern interiors creates a unique product in a historic district, Poteet said.

“You really want the exterior to be a real credit to the neighborhood, but the interior really needs to express the personality and the likes of the owner,” he said.

Must-have items move homes

Lavaca Home

Julie Hooper knew she wanted a caliche block home when she found this one in the Lavaca neighborhood. EXPRESS-NEWS FILE PHOTO

This is a recent article from the San Antonio Express-News.  It features Julie Hooper’s home in Lavaca.  Julie is an agent with me at King William Realty.

By Jason Buch

Julie Hooper’s home in the Lavaca neighborhood had unflattering additions and the more-than-100-year-old building material was hard to identify when she first saw it in 2005.
But its old caliche stone sealed the deal.

“You could really not even see what it was, it was so covered up and had been added onto so many times,” Hooper said. “But because I knew what I was looking for, I knew it was caliche block. And I’ve always wanted to live in a caliche block home.”

Hooper said she wanted a caliche block home because they tend to be old — she estimates hers was built in the 1860s — and the thick blocks keep the interior cool during the summer. Eventually, the whole house underwent a complete redo, but the caliche block stayed.

“There is something very special about caliche block homes,” she said.

Hooper, who’s a real estate agent with King William Realty, said that for some buyers, their list of must-haves is set in stone, so to speak. But for most buyers, what they want in a house often changes when they get out and look at real homes. Much like Supreme Court justices trying to identify obscenity, home buyers can’t define the must-have items they’re looking for, but they know them when they see them.

Even trivial items can be a selling point or a deal-breaker on a home.

“I’ve had people fight over light fixtures,” Hooper said. One seller’s choice not to include light fixtures in a sale almost sunk the deal. But the house’s termite infestation ended up saving the day.

“The seller left the light fixtures she was in love with, and the new owner paid for termite treatment,” she said.

Even though buyers may go into the process with a set of prerequisites for their new home, that can change once they see what’s out there, said Ann Van Pelt, a real estate agent with Phyllis Browning Co.

“The must-haves very often fall by the wayside,” she said. “We have in mind what we want when we go house-hunting, but we get swayed by something that is so appealing that we sort of forget the two-car attached garage that we absolutely had to have.”

It’s hard to tell what will trigger that must-have mentality, Van Pelt said. It can be something minute or something huge.

“Sometimes it’s just that it’s a perfect piece of real estate and sometimes it’s something as simple as a beautifully redone kitchen. And sometimes it’s just location,” she said.

Many times when a buyer comes across a “hidden jewel” or a house that is unlike any they’ve seen before, they’ll make a decision on the spot, Van Pelt said.

“It’s interesting what grabs people,” she said. “Sometimes it’s simply the practicality of having space for a family. But when you get beyond that pure practicality, sometimes it’s just something that touches your heart.”