San Antonio Housing Trust Enters Deal to Restart Friedrich Lofts Project
Feature Photo (above): A side entrance on North Olive Street to the long dormant Friedrich Refrigeration Complex, soon to be redeveloped as a residential community with parking structure.
by Adolfo Pesquera
San Antonio (Bexar County) – The San Antonio Housing Trust Public Facility Corporation recently entered into a real estate transaction that is meant to kick-start a long dormant East Side commercial development–the Friedrich Lofts.
In 2015, a private developer that had acquired the former Friedrich Air Conditioning Company factory complex obtained permissions from the city to remove historic building designations on most of the buildings on the site. These actions were related to a request submitted in 2014 to demolish eight of the buildings.
Only three buildings, those most iconic to the Friedrich legacy and closest to East Commerce Street, were to be spared and renovated as part of an adaptive reuse concept for a residential/retail development. The Office of Historic Preservation, at the time, claimed 11 of the 14 buildings at the Friedrich Refrigeration Complex, 1617 E. Commerce, were historically significant and opposed the demolition request.
The developer, Dallas-based Provident Realty Advisors, eventually received permission on the demolition request but never proceeded further.
The San Antonio Housing Trust entered the picture this summer when on June 15 the board of directors considered a resolution authorizing their Assistant Secretary Pedro Alanis to execute documents for a $3.5 million loan from American South Real Estate Fund LP, and a seller loan of $4,732,500 in connection with the Friedrich Lofts Apartments, “a new 347-unit mixed income affordable/market PFC structure in partnership with Provident Realty.”
Bexar County Clerk real property records show that on Aug. 4 an entity created by San Antonio Housing Trust (SAHT Friedrich LP LLC) became the grantee of 4.876 acres of the 5.731 acre Friedrich Complex. John Miller, the landowner who is working with Provident, was the grantor. The Miller/Provident group held onto the three most historically significant buildings.
Miller, through Friedrich Lofts Ltd., sold the real estate as a Special Warranty Deed with Vendor’s Lien. This instrument ties the transaction to a right to repurchase that includes a construction deadline. Although San Antonio Housing Trust acquired the site, Friedrich Lofts Ltd. reserves the Right to Repurchase the real estate for $6,310,000, “less amounts owed related to unpaid work performed,” if the San Antonio Housing Trust does not obtain a construction loan and begin construction on a 771-space parking garage within 360 days of Aug. 11, 2020.
Last week, the San Antonio Heron reported that San Antonio Housing Trust’s involvement was needed to begin construction in the Spring of 2021 and ensure that some substantial percentage of the units would be available as affordable workforce housing. Half of the units are to be reserved to households earning 80 percent or less of the area median income (AMI), with 14 of the below-market units set aside for households earning 60% or less of AMI.
View of the Friedrich complex looking northeast from East Commerce. Image: Google Streets.
If the Right to Repurchase is not exercised, the developer will operate the new development under a 75-year lease. This is a $68.7 million project that will take from 22 to 24 months to complete once construction begins.
The Heron also noted that Provident must work with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on environmental remediation of the site, as well as with the Texas Historical Commission on those buildings marked for demolition.
The architectural designs must also go before the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission for conceptual approval.
The earliest section of Friedrich Refrigeration Complex was built in 1923 and expansion on the site continued for more than 30 years. The plant shuttered in 1990. The near East Side area where the factory complex is located has undergone gentrification over the past 20-plus years; this trend has made the industrial site increasingly attractive as an urban renewal project.
On Sept. 3, the San Antonio Business Journal also reported that will use its in-house general contractor for construction. Demolition and site work is to begin this Fall. Dallas-based Architecture Demarest is the designer for the apartments, which a Provident spokesman said will mimic is style the era when the Friedrich Refrigeration Complex was active.
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.