Castroville Downtown Redevelopment Fund Created as Response to Urban Sprawl
Feature Photo: View of the St. Louis Catholic Church as seen from the StadtPlatz (town square) in Castroville’s historic downtown. Image: Google Streets.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Castroville (Medina County) — More than 30 local families have banded together, pooling their resources to create the Castroville Downtown Redevelopment Fund, an investment vehicle intended to preserve and redevelop the once-bustling downtown.
The Fund’s creation is also a grassroots reaction to concerns over a wave of urban sprawl that has been approaching from San Antonio.
Current condition and concept for redevelopment on Paris Street, northeast of the town square. Rendering courtesy of Castroville Downtown Redevelopment Fund.
Located next to the Medina River, about 27 miles from downtown San Antonio, the Castroville community of 3,000 is anticipating rapid population growth. Tract home builders, national fast food and retail chains have been acquiring land or at least showing interest. Although open to development, townsfolk are concerned about how these changes will shape their future and identity.
Reclaiming this historic heart of the city will be thoughtfully undertaken by the Fund’s resident-managers, keeping the city’s architectural and historical identity in mind.
The fund has already acquired three, key properties in the historic core, with another under contract. The initial capital raise will support the acquisition and redevelopment of up to a dozen properties in the downtown district.
Castroville is known for its Alsatian heritage and architecture. It was established in 1844 by Henri Castro, an empresario of the Republic of Texas, who brought hundreds of Alsatian families from Europe to help settle his land grant west of San Antonio. Even today, some residents still speak Alsatian, a dialect of German stemming from the French province of Alsace.
Castroville’s Alsatian architecture is reminiscent of 19th century France with steeply pitched roofs and charming cottages. While close to San Antonio, it has a history, cultural, and architectural story of its own.
Current condition and redevelopment concept at Fiorella and London streets.
“Our ancestors created a charming village that has survived as an enclave of Alsatian culture,” said fund partner Joshua Kempf, an eighth-generation Castrovillian who is passionate about preserving his hometown’s unique history and culture. “We are the heirs of this legacy, heritage, and beautiful architecture. We feel a sense of stewardship during the time that we’re here to preserve, to enhance, and to leave it better for our children. This is why we banded together as local families to ensure that Castroville’s legacy and identity lives on.”
“We have all of these beautiful homes and buildings at various states of repair and disrepair, but the charm is just fabulous and that is what we want to preserve and enhance for future generations,” said Tim Hildenbrand, another partner in the Castroville Downtown Redevelopment Fund.
Renovation and revitalization efforts are grounded in the elements of charm, preservation of architectural history, quality construction designed for longevity, enhancement of local arts and culture, walkable streetscapes, community gathering space, and preservation of local identity.
The founding partners are actively recruiting and will welcome higher-end contemporary American and European cuisine, as well as other operators and proprietors such as a microbrewery, boutique grocer, ice cream parlor, art gallery, entertainment venue, and custom Western shop, whose vision and business models align with their concept and vision.
“Everybody that’s involved is eager to keep our heritage and excited about the ability to do this project. We’ve all been kind of just waiting for this! The way we’re doing it with so many people involved and investing, where one person couldn’t do this, but with all of us working together we can. We can do it bigger and better and really make it shine,” said fund partner Mary Lou Burges.
“It’s a rare thing to see residents of a town come together of their own financing and accord to preserve the story of where they live and who they are,” said Castroville Mayor, Darrin Schroeder. “We are able to enjoy this beautiful town because of what our ancestors have done for us. Now, it’s our turn to provide the same for our children.”
Edited from a Castroville Downtown Redevelopment Fund news release
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.