Vacant since 2004, these heavily vandalized buildings had become a local “ghost town” full of transients and ripe with crime. The property was auctioned to new owners recently and developers AREA Real Estate brought in local design firms Lake|Flato Architects and OCO Architects to renovate the buildings into apartments, retail, and office spaces. This creative design team reimagined the neglected property and came up with the simple solution of re-skinning the existing superstructure and connecting the site’s Broadway Street façade with retail and office use.
The project was divided into two phases. The 252,500-square-foot first phase reshaped the largest portion of the project. This block included the renovation of 300 existing apartments spread out among five courtyards. New pedestrian bridges connect the outdoor circulation spaces between the many apartment wings. The design effort also made the floor plans of the original apartments more efficient and sustainable. The renovation made small adjustments to the windows in order to let more natural daylight into each apartment. The new spaces within the project are wonderful adaptations of an existing superstructure. They retain industrial qualities, as if to expose the old bones of the vacant building and say that something great came from them. The first phase also finished roofing a five-story parking garage that had already been constructed.
The 78,500-square-foot second phase finished the existing eastern block’s apartments while incorporating retail and office space within the Broadway Street façade. The retail and office components breathe new life into the apartment complex at 1221 Broadway. Mixed-use design like this helps to keep neighborhoods walk-able. This space, though a gateway of sorts to the apartment complexes beyond, creates a wonderful sense of place for visitors from Broadway. This project is a catalyst to urban rejuvenation, and it will help to connect the northern parts of the San Antonio Riverwalk to the residential and commercial neighborhoods to the north.
Lake|Flato Architects and OCO Architects have been awarded an AIA San Antonio Citation Award, a Builder’s Choice Award, a San Antonio Green Building Award, and many other honors for their work at reimagining these once vacant buildings. Hopefully this project will serve as an example for many urban revitalization projects around the nation.