Feature Illustration: East-by-northeast view of the 100 Labor project, as seen from southwest of Labor Street and Garfield Alley. Courtesy: Alamo Architects.
by Adolfo Pesquera
San Antonio (Bexar County) — Alamo Architects secured conceptual design approval from the Historic and Design Review Commission on the last parcel to be developed in the city housing authority’s Lavaca Historic District property.
San Antonio Housing Authority proposes to construct a four-and-a-half story multifamily structure on the vacant lot in the 600 block of East Cesar Chavez Boulevard. The highest elevations will face Cesar Chavez, directly south of the Institute of Texan Cultures in the Hemisfair Park district.
The development, referred to as 100 Labor, will step down in height as it continues south into the Lavaca neighborhood, where four-to-two-story townhouses structures are to be constructed. In all, there are to be 216 residential units and about 260 off-street parking spaces, with much of that contained in a parking structure.
There will also be a ground floor retail space on Labor Street.
The project was scheduled to sail through without comment, however, Commissioner Curtis Fish requested a presentation because he was unfamiliar with the SAHA’s history in the Lavaca district. Associate Principal Jim Bailey said Alamo Architects had been working with SAHA on redevelopment of the former Victoria Courts since 1998.
Map of the project site (above) for 100 Labor. Aerial perspective (below) looking northwest. Courtesy: Alamo Architects.
Previous developments include the Hemisview Village and Refugio Place multifamily projects, and the parceling out of lots south of Refugio Place to homebuilders for single family housing. The two remaining parcels lay dormant for years as SAHA waited on funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Bailey said architectural work on 100 Labor began in the last 18 months, which has mostly been dedicated to gathering public input and doing site analysis. The reaction of the neighbors has been largely positive, Bailey said, summarizing their comments as, “We’ve been waiting 20 years. Let’s get this done.”
More recently, the design architect, Founding Principal Billy Lawrence, has been drawing up schematic designs. Bailey said that stage is at about 50 percent completion.
Lawrence noted that he lives in the Lavaca district and has taken a more personal interest in this project. He went on to describe the method of scaling down the structures from Cesar Chavez, where the neighborhood meets the more high density, metropolitan Hemisfair district, to the lower heights that approach a historic single family housings environment.
The architects are also looking for ways to treat Labor as a gateway entrance to the neighborhood. Fortunately, the lots are blessed with “incredibly terrific trees,” Lawrence said. “They are spectacular.”
Using the heritage trees to their advantage, the design team has the foundation for a very nice streetscape that will include a courtyard beside a nook retail space near where Labor and Garfield Alley meet.
The site plan for SAHA’s 100 Labor project. Courtesy: Alamo Architects.
In the architects’ project narrative, the scaling is further described:
“Traveling down Labor Street (from Cesar Chavez), the building begin to scale down to three- and two-story volumes that are more appropriately scaled to the buildings in the Lavaca neighborhood. Furthermore, the brick masonry that is so prominent along Cesar E. Chavez beings to transition to fiber cement siding and is introduced in the courtyards and the buildings that border Santos Street and Garfield Alley. Townhouses are introduced along Garfield Alley to mitigate the scale of the project and respect the houses across the street.”
Summary of City Staff Comments:
Structures fronting Labor and Santos Streets will feature heights between three and four stories. Structures along Garfield Alley will feature two stories in height. The proposed development transitions from heights comparable to those found within the Central Business District to those of two stories, consistent with heights found within the Lavaca Historic District.
Alamo Architects proposes parapet walls with shed roof elements on the taller structures, and side gabled roofs for the townhouses. Façade elements separating the main structure include a defined base, midsection and cap, vertical and horizontal elements, recessed and projecting façade bays and balconies and various recesses in building form.
Exterior materials include patterned, multi-color brick, lap siding, stucco, metal and standing seam metal roofs. Other architectural details will feature window openings comparable in size and proportion to those found in the district.
Two separate locations are proposed for parking–a wrapped parking structure with access from the existing unnamed drive that connects Cesar Chavez to Santos Street, and will only be exposed from this side; a surface parking lot that will be accessed from Garfield Alley which will be screened from street views by the proposed new construction.
Aerial view of the retail courtyard (above); street view of Garfield Alley looking east. Courtesy: Alamo Architects.