San Antonio’s Streetcar Suburbs

As San Antonio begins to rebuild our streetcar system it’s important to reflect on how the streetcars of the past helped shape our center city. This is a good piece written by Christine Vina.

Building San Antonio: The streetcar suburbs of old and new

Written by Christine Vina and posted in the San Antonio Express-News on November 27, 2011

If you take a look at the streetcar map of early 1920s San Antonio, it is quite easy to identify the neighborhoods that were connected by the 19 different streetcar lines that existed at the time. If one lived or worked within the original 36 square miles of the city (roughly the area bounded by Hildebrand Avenue, Rio Grande, Division/Morill Avenues, and 19th/24th streets), you were ‘free’ to travel around the city, and the local commerce located along these major transit routes offered additional economic development benefits to the community.

Front Porch Realty, LLC is now open for business

I’ve recently opened my own agency and today the new signs are out. Let me know your thoughts on the new (albeit temporary) design. I’m working with my Graphic Designer on a whole branding and design package. More to follow.

Front Porch Realty, LLC

Front Porch Realty, LLC


More housing and possible restaurant coming to SoFlo

Construction begins tomorrow on Steel House Lofts apartments and it could possibly bring a restaurant from La Gloria’s owner, Johnny Hernandez. I’m really watching the SoFlo area transform into the next great place to live in downtown. I completely agree with Hernandez’s quote, “I see that neighborhood really coming to life in the next couple of years.” I have several friends that call SoFlo home and are happy to see the area become the next hot spot.

Earlier this week I attended the Centro Partnership’s first Downtown Strategy Workshop that is working to fulfill the Vision 2020 desire for increased downtown living. A lot of discussion was had about the great opportunities for development and revitalization in the neighborhoods that edge downtown. Steel House Lofts is a great example of what our city needs to satisfy our desire for increased urban living.

Steel House Lofts project

Construction on rental units will begin Monday.

By Valentino Lucio
San Antonio Express-News Sunday July 24, 2011

Renderings for the Steel House Lofts, located just south of downtown near South Flores and Alamo streets. Photo: COURTESY PHOTO Alamo Architects

Construction will begin Monday on the long-awaited Steel House Lofts, a project that will turn a nearly 100-year-old building that once housed iron and steel into a modern living space just south of downtown in the South Flores area.

Austin-based developer Dennis McDaniel bought the 73,000-square-foot building in 2006 with the idea of creating condos and townhomes. But the collapse of the economy and the real estate market put that plan on the back burner and the plan then morphed into rental units.

Funky Lavaca home

This article was recently posted in the Spaces section of the San Antonio Express-News. This funky home sits in the southern end of Lavaca and is a testament to recycling older commercial spaces into creative residential spaces. The photos were taken by John Davenport who photographed my house for our Spaces article.

Spaces: Studio Dreams – Building goes mod, glammy for couple

By Megan Stacy Special to the Express-News
February 21, 2011

Many artists dream of having a studio and home in the same place. For many years, married artists Joey Fauerso and Riley Robinson lived near the studios they owned but wanted to be even closer.

A prominent focal point of the south central home of Joey Fauerso and her husband Riley Robinson is their centrally located courtyard.

A prominent focal point of the south central home of Joey Fauerso and her husband Riley Robinson is their centrally located courtyard

Last year they got their chance. The building next door, once a Mexican restaurant and then offices for a credit union, went on the market. Fauerso and Robinson bought the property but weren’t exactly sure how the 3,800 square-foot-office building would become a home.

They had a few ideas, though. They knew they wanted an interior courtyard, which would mean cutting a hole in the center of the building. They also wanted to reflect the building’s ’60s-era architecture in the interior design. They wanted to be resourceful with money and materials. And they wanted white walls to display their art collection.

Living room

Living room

Once the interior was demolished, it took four months to rebuild. The couple says they were lucky to collaborate with architect Leslie Anderson of MSA Architecture and contractor Tony Mangold of The Elan Group, whose team was first-class and fast.

“If you stood still, you got put into a wall,” Robinson joked.

Throughout the project, Fauerso and Robinson relied on their artistic training. Robinson, a sculptor, made decisions about proportions and the placement of windows and walls. Fauerso, a painter and video artist, selected colors, textures and patterns for the interior design.

At the center of the home is the courtyard, open to the sky and accessible on all sides by sliding glass doors.

“Cutting the roof open for the center atrium was critical to having a successful, light-filled living space,” Robinson said.



This airiness is augmented by 10-foot ceilings and white walls throughout the home.

The walls were skimmed with mud and painted a flat white to create a plaster effect. It was the contractor’s idea to round off all the edges to soften the wall contours.

The clean walls set off the art found everywhere, from paintings in hallway nooks to sculptures in the dining room. Some art is by friends, like three-dimensional framed scenes by paperwork artist Michael Velliquette. Some represents the couple’s own work, like the square of glass above the bathtub that Robinson etched with the word “Fabulousness.”

With all the white, Fauerso didn’t want the home to feel sterile.

She shopped salvage yards to find distinctive décor. One launching point for the interior design were ’60s-era ceramic light fixtures salvaged from Lackland Air Force Base. Their primary colors and geometric design inspired colors and patterns in the house.

Fauerso used gray and green tile found at the Habit for Humanity ReStore to design a tile pattern for the master bath. She also found Spanish-style tile for the courtyard walls and kitchen backsplash.

Much of the furniture was inherited, but Fauerso shopped at used office supply stores and online to find vintage furnishings reminiscent of the 1960s, like the rattan bedroom set.



She also shopped online resale sites. That’s where she found the dinged metal Kelvinator cabinets for the kitchen, which were refinished in slick, electric blue paint at an auto body shop.

The kitchen area has an open feel to it. The home at one time was a Mexican restaurant and at another time it was a credit union.

The kitchen area has an open feel to it. The home at one time was a Mexican restaurant and at another time it was a credit union.

“One of the things I love about San Antonio is that it’s such a rich and colorful place, with such overlays of different cultures,” she says. “So I wanted this space to reflect that.”

House Rules

Recycle demolition material: After gutting the interior of the building, Joey Fauerso and Riley Robinson were left with several Dumpsters worth of wood, steel, copper and concrete. Their contractor had the wood mulched, sent the steel to a scrap yard and recycled the copper. The concrete blocks were reused as planters in the yard.

Repeat Elements: In the couple’s home, the white walls unify the rooms. Another repeated material is birch plywood, which was used for the kitchen counter and the 8-foot doors. Birch also was used for bathroom cabinets, custom-made by South Presa Cabinets.

Mix Affordable and Pricey: The couple has invested in some quality pieces like a light fixture by local woodworker Peter Zubiate and custom stools by San Antonio furniture designer Peter Glassford. But they also purchased off-the-shelf items to stay within their project budget and placed them in proximity to the higher-end items. “You can have some really (inexpensive) things if you have some really good things,” Fauerso says.

The dining table in the home has a Peter Zubiate light fixture hanging over it.

The dining table in the home has a Peter Zubiate light fixture hanging over it

Respect the Building: During the demolition, six layers of floor linoleum were removed, revealing concrete and terrazzo. The couple kept the terrazzo flooring for the character and to establish the age of the building. They also kept the original entrance, where storefront glass doors lead to a portico where more terrazzo tile is inset with the words “El Rancho,” the name of the restaurant that once occupied the property.

The name of the restaurant that once occupied the property.

The name of the restaurant that once occupied the property.

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.”

Building San Antonio: Demographics change, but old values remain

This is a great article by David Matiella, an architect and resident of Mahncke Park. I really relate to the idea of “new homeowners come with an infusion of energy and optimism” and their blending with “sage older residents” of the neighborhood. This is certainly the case with my neighborhood Lavaca and many other great inner-loop neighborhoods experiencing revitalization. I have many neighbors like the one David writes of that “have seen this neighborhood grow, decline and come back.”

When I look around my neighborhood of Mahncke Park, I see many new neighbors moving in. This is always an exciting time, and it gets me wondering: Will these new people be nice? Will they be young or old? Will they have young children like us or — even better — do they have babysitter-age kids?
Historical information indicates the houses in my neighborhood were built between 1920 and 1950. Starting in 1891, George W. Brackenridge gave the city 25 acres of land connecting the water reservoir at the top of the hill near the San Antonio Botanical Garden to Brackenridge Park. He asked that the land be named for his close friend, City Park Commissioner Ludwig Mahncke, and the neighborhood that developed around the park still bears his name and statue.

Mahncke Park has character and a history. Some homes are in excellent shape, having been well- maintained by their owners, while others are in need of tender care.

For many reasons, older owners will sell their homes and move away, and new homeowners will move in. Most of the time, new homeowners come with an infusion of energy and optimism.

More and more, I observe houses being snatched up by buyers who restore or rehabilitate them. Some buyers purchase in order to turn a profit with these homes. Others buy in order to rehab a fixer-upper and create a liveable home for themselves. Their neighbors may lend a hand installing wood floors or painting, creating new relationships and further tightening the bond between neighbor and community.

There’s an older gentleman my family runs into on our neighborhood walks. Having witnessed the turnover of neighbors through the years, he is happy to gaze fondly at our small children and recite stories of his own childhood in the neighborhood.

“It sure is nice to have children playing on this street again,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. “I’ve been here 57 years and have seen this neighborhood grow, decline and come back.” I cannot mistake the nostalgic pride in his manner as he says this about his neighborhood, now my neighborhood — our neighborhood.

He is not just talking about the neighborhood houses, he is talking about the people who make up the neighborhood, and I realize that my mind-set about Mahncke Park has been broadened once again by one of our sage older residents.

The man’s words become a lesson when I look with pride at the fine older homes in Mahncke Park and realize that I can put too much emphasis on the materiality of our neighborhood. A collection of houses may make a neighborhood, but it is the people who live in these homes who are truly special and create a community.

David Matiella, Assoc. AIA, is a project manager at Marmon Mok Architecture.

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.