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Castroville: Reimagining a Historic Town Square One Building at a Time

Feature Photo: The 407 Paris Street building, former home of the Castroville News Bulletin. Image: Google Streets.

Posted: 8-31-2021

by Adolfo Pesquera

Castroville (Medina County) — In the next few weeks work will begin on the remodel of a quaint little one story building that used to be the home of the Castroville News Bulletin.

Located at 407 Paris Street just off the old town square (the StadtPlatz),  the whitewashed building with the red framed wooden porch was also a post office. But today it is step one of many being planned by the Castroville Downtown Redevelopment Fund.

The for-profit fund was created by a group of longtime residents and former investment banker Joshua Kempf and his partner Tim Hildenbrand, an engineer in the oil and gas industry who has been active in Medina County community affairs. As reported in an Aug. 23 VBX article, they assembled a group of about 30 Castroville families to invest in the revitalization of the historic downtown district.

Castroville, established in 1844, has one of the oldest historic districts in the state. It was designated as such in the 1960s. However, a number of the buildings around the StadtPlatz have been vacant and slipped into decline of late.

Dan’s Meat Market, at the corner of Lorenzo and Paris streets. Image: Google Streets.

The Fund’s founders are determined to turn that around. In addition to 407 Paris Street, the Fund projects team has acquired the two-story Dan’s Meat Market (1303 Lorenzo Street), and the Chateau Lafayette, a two-story, red brick event center at 1201 Fiorella Street¬†that was built in 1907.

While 407 Paris Street is first on the project schedule for restoration, the Fund projects team intends to roll out notice to proceed orders on the other two buildings shortly after.

“The former News Bulletin, Dan’s and the event center, they’re all kind of happening in parallel,” Kempf said.

Initial plans are to lease the 407 Paris building to at least two commercial tenants. A retail use would be in front and the two-story detached rear structure could be office space.

“We are now in negotiations with craft barbecue entrepreneurs that will, ideally, go into the Dan’s Meat Market. That will be a destination barbecue location,” Kempf said.

The partners are in talks with an event center manager to ensure the 1201 Fiorella St. property lives on as the social hall it’s been known for.

The Fund has its eye on at least nine other buildings. The vision is to reactivate a zone within the historic district that at most would encompass three or four blocks, all within walking distance.

Kempf and Hildenbrand are working with top-notch historic preservation consultants and their architectural team includes the firms Alamo Architects and HiWorks, both out of San Antonio. They’ve also retained the services of TBG Partners to realize the landscaping and hardscaping of their master plan.

The development would have a uniform look in keeping with the character of Castroville and a sufficient variety of attractions to draw the greater community. Examples of businesses being sought include a high-end contemporary euro cuisine restaurant, boutique grocer, microbrewery, an ice cream shop and art galleries.

Their hope is to create a space with a distinctive identity. It will have its own name, a website and social media presence.

“Another important aspect of this is us working closely with elected officials to redevelop the streetscape,” Kempf said.

The project should include underground utilities, new sidewalk, street pavers, and landscaping. Fortunately, the Fund projects team is working with a forward thinking mayor and city council.

The details haven’t been worked out, yet, but the team foresees a public-private partnership where the buildings will be restored with private sector financing and the cost of public infrastructure will be covered through some method of public-assisted financing.

“There’s a lot of avenues we can go with this,” Kempf said, such as financing leveraged with state and federal historic building tax credits. “The most important asset is a great deal of goodwill from local officials and buy-in from residents.”

VBX Project ID 2021-647F


adolfo@virtualbx.com

Related Images

Construction Preview
By |2021-09-01T09:06:47-05:00August 31st, 2021|Construction Preview, Feature Story|

About the Author:

Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.

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