web analytics

San Marcos: Developer Plans Student Housing Project Next to Historic Courthouse at The Square

Feature Photo (above): Area highlighted in yellow is proposed to be a student housing complex, adjacent to San Marcos’ historic town Square. Image: Google Earth.

Update: 5-30-2019: The Planning & Zoning Commission voted 7-1 against granting the requested zoning. The developer, 75 Sylvan LLC, is reevaluating its project.

Originally Posted: 5-28-2019

by Adolfo Pesquera

San Marcos (Hays County) — An East Coast developer is asking the Planning & Zoning Commission to approve a student housing project that may be more than just student housing.

Because it is a college town, San Marcos officials are accustomed to negotiating land use issues for student housing. But there’s never been a project this large located smack in the center of downtown. Positioned cater-corner from The Square–the city’s historic Hays County Courthouse–the project site boundaries are South Guadalupe between San Antonio Street and Martin Luther King Drive.

The zoning applicant and supposed developer is 75 Sylvan Street LLC, which lists an address in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. But there are no listed officers and no company website. 75 Sylvan is being represented by San Marcos broker Thomas K. Rhodes of TKAR Commercial Real Estate Services.

The developer is seeking a conditional use permit for “Purpose Built Student Housing,” and the P&Z Commission will consider the request at tonight’s regular session.

Rendering of the proposed student housing complex from MLK Drive at Guadalupe Street. Courtesy: Humphreys & Partners.
Rendering of the proposed student housing complex from MLK Drive at Guadalupe Street. Courtesy: Humphreys & Partners.

TKAR is justifying the CUP for student housing based on a city ordinance threshold that more than 50% of residents must be students. However, the application includes an attachment by Campus Advantage, a student housing property management company, that refers to a blog on millennial housing.

It states in part that students and millennials have similar expectations for housing: “as these students mature and graduate, it is natural they are seeking the same sense of community at their next apartment complex. However, many conventional communities do not emphasize the resident experience through monthly programming and events.”

The implication there is that the proposed student housing complex would also serve as post-graduate housing for young professionals that want to remain in a community that provides scheduled programming.

“Events such as social mixers, networking nights, meal preparation, community fitness classes, pet meet-and-greets, or free resume head shots are examples of programming that caters to a more mature audience.”

Elevations of the proposed complex. Courtesy: Humphreys & Partners.
Elevations of the proposed complex. Courtesy: Humphreys & Partners.

The majority of futures tenants, regardless, will be students attending Texas State University and the project site is on the TSU Bobcat Shuttle Bus Route 26.

“The City’s proposed improvements to Guadalupe Street will introduce bike lanes and sidewalks where none currently exist. The project site is also approximately 2 blocks from the City bus station and Amtrak Depot. The project site offers multi-modal access to multiple alternative transportation networks,” TKAR’s Rhodes said.

75 Sylvan has put under contract 10 contiguous properties belonging to several different owners.

The law firm of Scanio &  Scanio is representing several downtown property owners opposed to the project because of how it would encroach into San Marcos’ old downtown.

“Over the years, the combined efforts of individuals, with the extensive renovation of the Courthouse, turned the downtown into a beautiful, alive venue in the center of a town that I have always considered close to paradise,” Michael Scanio stated. “I really cannot, and do not want to imagine a five to seven stories of student housing blocking out the view of the historic Courthouse and Square.”

Several buildings, a few arguably of historic significance, would have to be demolished, and well known establishments would, at the very least have to relocate. These include Blue Moon Optical, Gilcrease Dental, Comet Cleaners, and the rustic Buzz Mill, a popular 24-hour restaurant at Guadalupe and MLK Drive.

The streetscape boundaries requested by city staff (upper right); a cross-section of the floors and their uses (lower right): the 2nd level floor plan (left). Courtesy: Humprheys & Partners.
The streetscape boundaries requested by city staff (upper right); a cross-section of the floors and their uses (lower right): the 2nd level floor plan (left). Courtesy: Humprheys & Partners.

The combined lots total 2.18 acres and 75 Sylvan proposes a building with a total area of 180,276 square feet. The living quarters are divided into a five-story structure and a six-story structure, with a five-level parking garage separating the two.

The complex would have 171 units with 545 beds. The unit mix varies from studio units up to units with 5 beds/5 baths.

One small retail space (250 SF) and three restaurant spaces are also noted in the project data.

A project of this scale requires by ordinance 572 parking spaces. However, 75 Sylvan proposes to limit parking to 409 spaces and is offering to pay the city $844,600 as a fee-in-lieu of parking.

The city staff began reviewing this project after it was submitted in December and is now recommending approval conditioned on a long list of stipulations. Among these are the streetscape improvement along San Antonio and Guadalupe, a restriction of no balconies or patios facing Telephone Alley, and a pedestrian passage of at least two stories in height.

A priority concern of the city has been fire safety, due to the structure’s unusually elongated length.

“This is one of the longest block faces within our downtown, measuring approximately 675 feet long, compared to the majority of blocks within the downtown which tend to average 350 feet,” staff noted. “The size of the proposed building is a concern for the Fire Department, particularly in the course of searching and evacuating apartments structured in a “rent-by-the-bedroom” scheme. This is partially due to the fact that ‘rent-by-the-bedroom’ units have many more locked doors within the unit than traditional
apartment units, adding to the number of doors that must be opened with brute force during an emergency.”

The preliminary designs were prepared by Humphreys & Partners Architects LP of Dallas. The developer has also committed to a design that can attain National Green Building Standard Silver certification.