S.A. Cycle’s one year anniversary in Southtown

I am proud to call Jessica and Zach friends and neighbors. I applaud them in the risk they took to open S.A. Cycles and the success they have had in the past year. I’ve used their bicycle repair services a couple of times this year and would recommend them to anyone. They provide a great service to Southtown and to the many cyclist that ride the Mission Trail.

This article was published in Conexion.

Bicycle shop a community

Written by: Marissa Villa

Zach Seiter and Jessica Gonzales own S.A. Cycles is a neighborhood bike shop in Southtown that caters to all types of riders. Photo: HELEN L. MONTOYA

As the door to S.A. Cycles open, a bell chimes and a handful of friendly faces are there to say hello. Bicycles, both extravagant and simple, line the wall to the left, and bike accessories line the wall to the right.

Check out the updated Historic Downtown walking tour

My friends Elizabeth Porterfield and Shanon Wasielewski are mentioned in this article about the new walking tour. I’m going to have to check out the Conservation Society’s website and download the tour. You should do the same.

New brochure brings history to life

Self-guided tour of downtown has been updated.

By Scott Huddleston of the San Antonio Express News

If you’ve ever wondered where Santa Anna stayed during the Alamo siege or where Teddy Roosevelt outfitted his Rough Riders, you can find out in a newly updated brochure that tells some of the tales of downtown San Antonio.

The Texas Star Trail, created by the San Antonio Conservation Society for the state’s 1986 sesquicentennial, provides a self-guided 2.6-mile walking tour of downtown historic sites.

It includes lesser known jewels such as the O. Henry House, where the famed writer worked in the 1890s, and the Richter House, where barber-surgeon William Richter is said to have used leeches from a nearby irrigation ditch to treat patients.

Blood-sucking worms too weird for your taste? The brochure has been updated to include commentary by Elizabeth Porterfield, architectural historian with the city’s Office of Historic Preservation.

It shows 79 points of interest, identified by aluminum pavement markers, including 29 “must see” stops. The 12-inch circular discs depict the upper half of a Texas star over an outline of the Alamo. About 1,000 blue 3-inch markers line the trail, pointing pedestrians to the next stop.

Tuesday’s announcement of the updated brochure comes during National Preservation Month, as cities across the country celebrate their historic treasures, said Shanon Wasielewski, city historic preservation officer.

“We’re very fortunate that we have so many of them. We have treasures everywhere you look,” Wasielewski said.

The trail is designed to raise the local consciousness and promote exercise and cultural tourism, city officials said. Paula Stallcup, the city’s downtown operations director, said visitors often stare up at building features that locals don’t seem to notice.

“The walking tour is really to highlight that,” Stallcup said.

Since the trail has reached its 25th anniversary, now is the time to revive it, said Rollette Schreckenghost, president of the conservation society, which is trying to find funds to replace several missing markers.

The trail, funded by a $25,000 grant from the Meadows Foundation in 1986, no longer includes one historic house that was burned by an arsonist and three buildings that lost their historic significance in alterations.

The Wolfson Building, at 100 N. Main St. on Main Plaza, is Site No. 35 on the trail. As the home of Wolfson’s Dry Goods and Clothing Store, it was a cornerstone of a retail boom in the plaza in the late 1800s. It’s also on the site where Mexican Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna is said to have planned his army’s assault on the Alamo in 1836, said Marlene Richardson, the conservation society’s third vice president, who oversaw the route’s update.

Roosevelt’s Rough Riders were outfitted for their famous 1898 charge up San Juan Hill at one saddlery shop in Main Plaza and another nearby at 231 E. Commerce St. A stop at the Tower Life Building, a neo-gothic skyscraper that’s a familiar part of the city skyline, was added to the trail. Richardson recommends a look inside.

“Walk right in there. It’s gorgeous,” and offers relief from the heat, she said.

The brochure is available at conservation society offices, 107 King William St., and the San Antonio Visitor Center, 317 Alamo Plaza, and is posted on the society’s website, saconservation.org/pdf/texasstartrail.pdf.

Austin-San Antonio commuter rail line update

My favorite quote of the article, “The unfunded plans…are akin to discussing which topping will go on a pizza when no one has money to order.”

Hopes for a Austin-San Antonio commuter rail line get boost. Funding still far off for high-speed line.

By Jacob Dirr

Austin Business Journal
November 26, 2010
The Texas Transportation Commission approved a comprehensive, statewide rail plan this month that includes the Lone Star Rail plan, aimed at linking San Antonio and Austin with commuter rail.

At the same time, an internal TxDOT study is indicating that a high-speed rail system from Houston would be cheaper if it connected to Austin instead of San Antonio.

The unfunded plans, while an important step forward, are akin to discussing which toppings will go on a pizza when no one has money to order.

“We don’t want to raise expectations yet, because there is no money,” Alamo Regional Mobility Authority Vice Chairman Robert Thompson said. “Let’s be patient. It’s not time to order yet.”

The Texas rail plan, known as the 2035 Statewide Long-Range Transportation Plan, was adopted on Nov. 18 after an aggressive effort to finish before state lawmakers convene in January.

The plan was also given a push from the federal government, which left Texas in the dark regarding more than $8 billion in funding awards because the state did not have a cohesive plan.

Lone Star’s aligning
For the Lone Star rail plan, which has been under serious planning for years, inclusion in the Texas rail plan satisfied one of four conditions the Federal Railroad Administration said must be accomplished if local planners want the administration to take the lead, said Bill Glavin, TxDOT’s rail chief.

Three of the four conditions have now been met. The final is approval from the Surface Transportation Board, a federal regulatory agency charged with resolving railroad rate and service disputes and reviewing proposed railroad mergers.

Glavin said the STB review is under way.

The rail plan will also be included in a multiyear Texas-Oklahoma high-speed rail study announced in October.

In September, TxDOT also allocated $8.7 million for the second phase of a preliminary engineering study needed for Lone Star Rail.

The Houston connection
Apart from the Lone Star rail plan, two proposals have been floating around on a high-speed rail network connecting the Dallas, Houston and San Antonio-Austin regions.

One proposal, known as the “T-bone” or “wishbone,” runs a line from Dallas through Austin, to San Antonio.

The other part of the “bone” connects Houston to Temple — north of Austin.

Another plan proposes a triangle connecting the three large metros.

Whether San Antonio or Austin would be the third point of such a triangle is unknown.

Thompson said a study, complete or nearly complete, indicates it will be cheaper to connect Houston to Austin because less right of way would have to be bought.

“Being from San Antonio, I was not fond of that idea,” Thompson said. “In a friendly kind of debate, we will have to decide that.”

Glavin said that while Austin would appear cheaper, it is assumed that a line from Houston to San Antonio would have greater ridership.

More riders equals more money, which could offset the greater cost of connecting to San Antonio.

Amtrak already provides service between San Antonio and Houston, and that line, owned by Union Pacific Corp., could also be converted.

If the triangle plan eventually emerges as the favored plan, either Austin or San Antonio would receive an economic boost from the connection.

That question will be studied over the next two to three years, Galvin says.

Univision selling major site for development downtown

Univision is seeking buyer for its River Walk property
By: Tracy Lynn Silva
San Antonio Business Journal
December 10, 2010

The search is on for a new owner for a piece of land along San Antonio’s renowned River Walk.

Univision Communications Inc. has hired the local office of New York real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) to market the sale of its downtown real estate property — a total of 4.34 acres of land at 411 East Durango.

The asking price was not disclosed. The property is currently valued at roughly $2 million, according to information from the Bexar Appraisal District.

For Univision, the sale would provide a financial vehicle for the media firm’s plans to consolidate its various divisions — including its television operations, which are currently located at the Durango site, and its radio and ad sales departments. The latter two are located in separate office buildings in North Central San Antonio.

For San Antonio, the sale could serve to spur some new development activity in the center city.

The land is zoned for mixed-use development, explains John Taylor, senior vice president of capital markets for JLL. Taylor and Elysia Ragusa, senior managing director of the commercial brokerage firm, are heading up the Univision assignment.

Taylor adds that the land would be ideal for a mix of retail, multifamily and office development, and even a structured parking lot.

Even the seller sees the potential for such a project.

“(The site) is very well located in the heart of San Antonio,” notes Luis Patino, vice president and general manager for Univision San Antonio. “It’s convenient to all of the venues downtown, and very accessible to the major expressways in San Antonio.”

It is simply more land than Univision needs, or wants, to own, explains JLL’s Taylor.

At present, the media company utilizes about one third of its Durango land — namely a two-story building measuring 21,000 square feet that houses all of the departments for KWEX-TV — the local Univision affiliate.

Meanwhile, Univision Radio has its offices at 1777 N.E. Loop 410. The Univision Spot Office, or ad sales office, is located at 70 N.E. Loop 410.

Univision leases roughly 20,000 square feet between the two properties.

The goal now is to bring all of Unvision’s functions under one roof, says Patino, who adds that the company is leaning toward leasing, rather than owning, such a space.

Univision, however, does not plan to vacate the Durango site right away, says Taylor. For a new owner, that means an opportunity for “immediate income as the final designs and permitting on the project are completed,” he adds.

As for where Univision will ultimately land, “They would like to be downtown, if they could find the right place,” Taylor continues.

Could that plan involve staying at Durango as a tenant in a mixed-use project?

“We will consider all scenarios that make operational and economic sense for Univision,” Patino says.

The property has already garnered interest from a mix of local, regional and national developers, Taylor says.

The investment side of the real estate market has not exactly been a hotbed of activity of late.

Still, the political climate of San Antonio makes it an opportune time for putting the Univision tract on the market, Taylor continues.

That climate, he adds, is one that has city leaders looking at ways to bring more life back into the center of the city.

“It is a phenomenal opportunity for mixed-use development,” says Ben Brewer, president of Downtown Alliance San Antonio, of the Univision land.

Prime location
At 4.34 acres, the Univision site is one of the larger tracts of land still available in the downtown area. Its size, Brewer continues, lends itself to a developer that can bring some new retail and residential to the central business district.

“Definitely, it ought to have a multifamily component,” says Brewer, who has been very vocal about the vital link between residential development and the center city’s revitalization.

High density is key to a successful development, continues Brewer, who adds that he and other stakeholders would like to see something in the “New Urbanism vernacular.” That would involve a project with a mix of uses, built around a pedestrian friendly environment.

Given the high visibility of the Univison land, such a project could also serve as a model for other developments in the New Urbanism vein. “This is an opportunity for a great model for that kind of development we’d like to see downtown,” Brewer says. “Get it in the right hands of a good developer, this could be one of those sites we tout as a great opportunity for downtown.”

B-cycle bike share is coming to S.A.

By Colin McDonald – San Antonio Express-News

With the help of a new bike-share program, the mayor thinks San Antonio is closer to becoming a cool city.
City officials on Friday previewed San Antonio B-cycle, which will start in early 2011 with 140 bikes available for checkout from 14 bike stations spread across downtown.

For Mayor Julián Castro, the program will add to the city’s quality of life and help make it a more attractive and hipper place.

“San Antonio is going to be the most bike-friendly city in the country in the years to come,” he said. “We want to get off the fattest list and onto the fittest.”

The goal of bike sharing is to get more people using bikes for transportation. In two years the nonprofit running the program plans to expand to 500 bikes at 50 stations.

The system is designed to provide bikes for short trips, like an office worker going to lunch or picking up documents at the courthouse or a tourist going from the Alamo to Market Square.

“We want to see multimodal transportation,” City Manager Sheryl Sculley said. “We don’t all need to get into cars to drive across downtown.”

Access to the bikes is made available through a membership card that can be purchased by the day, week or year. The bikes are checked out and returned at any station. There is no charge to use the bike for a half-hour at a time. Each subsequent half-hour costs $2.

In the last year, Denver, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., have launched bike-share programs to promote cycling, reduce congestion and improve air quality and public health.

Once we get in the habit of cycling downtown, we will wonder why we didn’t do this sooner,” Sculley said.

Last summer, Sculley got excited about the potential for bike sharing in San Antonio when she saw a similar program in Montreal and sent photos of it to her staff. Bike-share programs have been common in Europe for years.

Denver’s program launched in April with 500 bikes that have logged 190,000 miles and helped riders burn more than 5 million calories, said Bob Burns, president of B-cycle, the company that makes the bikes used for the rental program.

The 45-pound, three-speed cruiser-style bikes are equipped with a large front basket, a light and reflectors, a bell, a lock, full fenders and an adjustable seat so anyone can ride safely in almost any weather. Riders use the bikes at their own risk and are asked to provide their own helmet.

Those with annual membership will be able to track their use via the website sanantoniobikeshare.org and get reports on how many miles they have traveled, calories burned and reduction in carbon emissions.

Renting Downtown

***This post was originally published in August 2010 and has become one of the most read posts of my blog. Due to its popularity I’ve moved it to the landing page on my site. Please click here for the list that I keep up-to-date as a lot more inventory has been developed over the past couple of years. Places to Rent in Downtown and Southtown ***


Four years ago I moved from the northern suburbs to Milmo Lofts off S. Flores and Durango. I found it very difficult to track down an apartment as there wasn’t a formal list of places or a website that had everything listed. Also at that time I was just getting my real estate license so I didn’t have access to the MLS or really even know any good downtown real estate experts.
Fast forward four year and A LOT has changed!!! I’m now a downtown real estate specialist, friends with all the other downtown agents, and the demand for downtown living as spawned several new downtown apartment complexes.

Jennifer Hiller at the Express-News wrote this great article.

A few years ago, people who wanted to rent an apartment downtown took whatever they could find because the options were so limited.
Now, however, there’s a bigger variety of housing downtown and renters are more likely to be able to choose between small studio spaces, rental homes or large lofts — without the expense and hassle of making a big down payment on a mortgage.

“You don’t have to buy downtown. You can rent,” said Lisa Schmidt, a downtown resident and real estate agent.

While San Antonio’s downtown still is in the early stages of residential demand compared to other major cities, living downtown is drawing in more and more people who are lured by what the lifestyle has to offer.

Many of the new downtown renters are military people who have been transferred to San Antonio as part of the growth at Fort Sam Houston under the Base Realignment and Closure process, said Debra Maltz, a broker and real estate agent with Centro Properties.

“The BRAC folks have made a difference. A lot of them don’t want to buy because they know they’re here for a finite period,” Maltz said. “They’re used to living in other cities downtown. I think that’s had an effect on downtown. They like the whole concept of living in a closer-knit community, which downtown offers.”

Young singles long have been attracted to downtown rentals, but Maltz said that now empty nesters are selling larger homes and trying out urban living.

They’ll often rent for a year to decide if they like the lifestyle.

Some of the newest large rental properties include the Vistana, a 247-unit Art Deco-inspired apartment building that opened in 2009 on

North Santa Rosa and the 66-unit St. Benedict’s on South Alamo Street, a King William-area project originally planned as condos but converted to a successful rental development.

The San Antonio Housing Authority recently opened HemisView Village Apartments across from HemisFair Park.

Although a handful of the 245 units are set aside for public housing or those who qualify for affordable-housing tax credits, 184 units are being rented at market rate to the general public.

The project includes balconies, a pool, a parking garage, a fitness and amenity center, and many units with big storefront-style windows and views of the Tower of the Americas.

“We’re really proud of the look and the feel,” said Lourdes Castro Ramirez, president and CEO of SAHA.

Market-rate rent ranges from $741 for the smallest units to $1,314 for a three bedroom. And the public housing units are scattered throughout the two buildings, with the idea of creating a true mixed-income community. “It’s definitely the future of public housing,” Ramirez said. “From a financial perspective, it’s the only way you can make project work. From a social policy perspective, you have more role models and an environment where people can socialize across economic groups.”

Although it’s not in downtown proper, new rental units soon will be available at the Pearl Brewery’s new Culinary Institute of America building, just north of downtown off of Broadway. The 25,000-square-foot structure will house several restaurants and be neighbor to apartments, the Twig bookstore, a third location for Bike World and a 1,000-seat amphitheater.

But on the upper floors there are also eight apartment units, including two penthouses. Maltz said recently that five units were pre-leased. “There is a huge demand to live at the Pearl Brewery,” she said.

Architect Jim Poteet, a longtime resident of King William who is known for his modern renovations of historic properties, said that for a long time it seemed that home and condo owners were the only ones living downtown. “I think the rise of rental is the thing that’s now bringing people downtown to test the waters. As a format it can be apartments, lofts, faux lofts or condos,” Poteet said.

And more rentals make sense as part of larger economic trends, he said. “I think the economy has shown people that homeownership, that urge to buy a house or to have a house as the cornerstone of your financial portfolio, was overstated. It feeds into a rental trend,” Poteet said. “It’s all to the good for downtown. We need all kinds of housing. We need ownership. We need infill projects. We need rental.”

And if people want to rent a more traditional home, there’s the historic King William and Lavaca neighborhoods, which have some rental homes and smaller offerings, such as garage apartments. Maltz recently rented a new contemporary house that’s tucked into Lavaca.

“You see infill housing a lot in Houston and Dallas. I think it’s wonderful that we are starting to see it here,” Maltz said. “It’s so expressive and so urban.”

Some of the places where you can rent downtown:

12welve 2wenty1 Loft Apartments – 210.354.1212

235 E. Commerce Apartments

Majestic Towers/Brady Bldg Apartments, 222 E. Houston St. – 210.224.1144

Pearl Brewery, 306 E. Grayson St.

Vistana, 100 N. Santa Rosa Ave. – 210.226.5638

720-724 N. Saint Mary’s Apts.

Blue Star Residences and Lofts, 1410 S. Alamo St. – 210.225.6743

The Brackenridge at Midtown, – 210-822-2500 (Opening January 2014)

Cadillac Lofts, 317 Lexington Ave. – 210.223.5638

Calcasieu Building Apartments, 214 Broadway – 210.472.1262

Can Plant Residences at Pearl, 503 Ave. A

Casa Lavaca, 502 Eager St.

Cevallos Lofts – 866.295.0250

Dielmann Lofts, 710 S. Medina St. – 210.223.1178

Exchange Building, 152 E. Pecan St.

Granada Apartments, 301-11 S. St. Mary’s St. – 210.225.2645

HemisView Village, 401 Santos St. – 210.212.8808

Losoya Building, 221 Losoya

Marie C. McAguire Apartments, 211 N. Alamo St. – 210.477-6378

Maverick Apartments, 606 N. Presa St. – 210.886.9555

Metro House, 213 4th St. – 210.271.0051

Milmo Lofts, 319 S. Flores St. – 210.223.1178

Morris Apartments, 128 E. Main Plaza – 210.225.3188

Palacio del Sol, 400 N. Frio St – 210.224.0442

Refugio Place, 300 Labor St.

Reuter Building, 217-219 Alamo Plaza

Robert E. Lee Apartments, 111 W. Travis St. – 210.354.1611 email: robert_e_lee_apts AT prm DOTCOM

Soap Works Apartments, 500 N. Santa Rosa Ave. – 210.223.9500

The Madison, Madison at Beauregard streets – 210.544.5416

Tobin Lofts, N. Main at San Antonio College Campus – 888-696-3145 (You must be a student of any higher education institution in the US.)

Toltec Apartments, 131 Taylor St.

Town Center Apartments, 601 N. Santa Rosa Ave.

Villa Hermosa, 327 N. Flores St. – 210.477.6611

Whitherspoon Building, 601 N. Alamo St.


Source: Downtown Alliance

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.