San Antonio: Alamo Funeral Chapel Owner Takes Stake in 12-Story Tower off Broadway Corridor
Feature Photo (above): Aerial view of the MPII Inc. property where a 12-story mixed-use tower is being proposed. Image: Google Earth with graphics by VBX.
by Adolfo Pesquera
San Antonio (Bexar County) — A local funeral chapel and cemeteries business owner is involved in a downtown redevelopment project that is proposing a 12-story tower that would include residential, hotel, retail and parking structure components.
The Zoning Commission on Tuesday Oct. 20 approved a zoning change that was better facilitate development of a project that would be located on the site of the Alamo Funeral Chapel and Spring Garden Flower Shop, as well as a surface parking lot that services the funeral business.
Bounded by North Alamo Street, Brooklyn Avenue, Avenue E and 6th Street, the properties encompass 1.65 acres.
Land development attorney James Griffin of Killen, Griffin, Farrimond (KGF) argued that the zoning change from Form Based Zone District Transect 4 to Downtown Historic Landmark was necessary because the existing zoning for this neighborhood off Broadway is outdated and does not serve the needs of developers.
Development Services staff was opposed to the change, however, they failed to convince the commissioners that Form Based zoning is still applicable. Beyond the needs of this one developer, Griffin apparently convinced the commissioners that the cluster of about 15 downtown city blocks between Broadway and Interstate 37/US 281, from East Jones Avenue to McCullough Avenue have not interested developers in the way Broadway and real estate to its west has because the zoning is too constraining.
Griffin said his clients would probably have to get about 10 variances to proceed with a project that would be lesser in scale than they want. Currently, the zoning would restrict height to four stories and even with variances they couldn’t go higher than eight stories. The current zoning would also not allow a hotel use on that lot.
Griffin argued that if any developer has to patch together several variances at the start just to do a project there, then the problem is the zoning. Form Based zoning considers form and mass of buildings in relations to one another. This puts constraints on designs that propose a significant departure in form and scale from their neighboring structures.
Commissioner Summer Greathouse, in whose district the project would take place, agreed. She said she knew of at least three projects in that area that required multiple variances. These hurdles make the projects more expensive and more complicated and it is disincentivizing developers.
Her motion to approve the change passed unanimously.
Commissioner John Bustamante and others also noted that by going to Downtown Historic Landmark, the project would come under jurisdiction of the Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) and the Historic and Design Review Commission, “so the city gets two bites at the apple.”
Griffin explained that there are two historically significant buildings on site. The owner has been working with OHP for the past two years to secure their historic classification and they will be preserved and incorporated into the new development. He added that renderings of the 12-story building were not shown because city staff didn’t like the building so the project team is still tinkering with the concept.
He briefly described the project as a structure that may have one level of underground parking and a couple levels of structured parking above ground, retail space that would wrap around the parking garage on two sides to screen it from public view, and a mix of office space, residential and hotel uses in the upper floors.
The property is owned by MPII Inc. and the company president/chairman is Robert D. Tips. He also owns the Mission Park Funeral Chapels & Cemeteries.
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.