By Melody Mendoza
When Dan Markson, senior vice president of NRP Group, a local developer, began planning high-end, market-rate housing on the South Side in 1985, others questioned whether it would be successful.
Today, NRP Group is in the planning stages of its sixth South Side housing unit in San Antonio; this one marketed as Texas A&M-San Antonio’s first university housing option to be located on University Way.
The project will offer students and employees four floor plan options spanning 236 total units with costs ranging from $625 for a 1-bedroom to $1,527 for a 3-bedroom unit. The complex is expected to open summer 2014.
The university housing complex is one of the three projects in the first phase of Verano Land Group’s 2,500-acre master plan located at Zarzamora Street and Loop 410, including 100 townhomes and a 75,000 square foot building.
Markson said he was one of the first developers to build on the South Side even though others said residents wouldn’t pay for higher-end housing.
But with his success so far, Markson said Brooks City-Base and Verano Land Group has the best shot of competing, adding cautiously, with Stone Oak, a high-end housing community at 281 north and Loop 1604.
Markson repeated questions posed by those who step onto land owned by Verano Land Group: “Where are we and why are we here?”
To those skeptics, he replied, “The answer is you’re at Texas A&M-San Antonio. You are the campus that will be the second to College Station; a flagship school that will eventually have a division of the core.”
Markson added that the university will be a monumental campus in a city that is growing and serving the fastest growing population and vast number of international students.
As A&M-San Antonio continues to develop, Markson and Tim Bartlett, CEO of Verano Land Group, said development in the area will follow.
“We’ll have dirt turning on University Way to compliment what the university is doing with the Central Academic Building and other buildings,” Bartlett said.
Rick Trefzer, assistant vice president for finance and administration, said the university is developing as resources and funds become available.
The A&M System Board of Regents approved and funded two buildings through a $75 million permanent university fund in February. A groundbreaking ceremony for Central Academic Building will be Nov. 3. This will be the landmark building facing University Way. Patriots’ Casa, a stand-alone building, will serve the active military and veteran population. The buildings are expected to be open for classes in fall 2014. Read more
Trefzer said it makes sense for Verano to invest as the university develops more buildings because more people will be in the area.
“We’ve got our plan and they’ve got theirs,” he said, adding that the university and Verano collaborate to “make both plans successful.”
Campus growth sparks need for housing
Developers predict housing will be attractive to those living on the South Side and students, faculty and staff who wish to relocate closer to work.
“A&M is the market now,” Markson said. “We’re building a student oriented building, but also (for) faculty and staff.”
Trefzer said he has not heard of students or employees who are seeking to move closer to campus.
“It’s hard to say,” he said. “As the campus grows and the area develops, it will be more attractive.”
Although hard to project now, Trefzer said, “Everything that happens across the street at Verano benefits the university. It sparks life and new energy.”
Markson’s prior experience developing on the South Side and a recent survey helped developers determine housing details.
NRP Group collaborated with the university to conduct a survey in August seeking student preferences on a student housing option near A&M-San Antonio. Almost 200 students and employees participated in the survey.
Trefzer said Kenneth Mitts, vice president for finance and administration, worked with Michael Casias, NRP Group project manager, to develop the survey.
Although Casias consulted with the university about the survey, the university has not had a lot of involvement. Trefzer said NRP Group ultimately makes decision about project details.
According to the housing survey, out of 193 who answered the question about current living situations, 31.6 percent said they live in a 3-bedroom apartment or house, which was reflected in the outcome of units being planned. A new concept of a 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom option will be developed through this complex, which is fit for an adult student population and appeals to faculty with children, Markson said.
Markson also described an influx of South Side residents who have relocated to the North Side. He said those residents would drive from north of 1604 to a family member’s house on the South Side for childcare and then downtown to work, a pattern that evolved because there wasn’t “a cool, quality, market rate place to live.”
In preparation for developing The Landings, a 300-unit apartment complex at Brooks City-Base developed by NRP Group, Markson said he saw that South Side developers were missing the public sector in the area including teachers, oil workers and downtown hospital employees.
“They were choosing to go north after work rather than south,” he said.
As a result, this population is having to go through hour-long traffic, which is a large contrast to the less than 10 minute drive to Brooks City-Base or 20-minute drive to Verano, Markson said.
“This is the Brooks story, but it translates to Verano,” he said. “No one was building product.”
The same is true for employees at A&M-San Antonio who are primarily traveling from other areas of San Antonio to Main Campus Building and Brooks City-Base Campus, which are located in District 3.
Of the 452 faculty and staff members only about 95 live on the South Side, according to a list of employee zip codes released by university communications.
Holly Verhasselt, assistant vice president for academic affairs, provided student zip codes. Of the more than 4,000 students, 825 live on the South Side.
Apartment-style housing fit for university population
Location of the housing project is slated for the second block north of Main Campus on University Way and is expected to available for incoming fall 2014 students.
The unit mix will offer 498 beds in 236 total units with four options:
• 12 studio types with one bed and one bathroom
• 18 1-bedroom, 1-bath
• 150 2-bedrooms, 2-baths
• 56 3-bedrooms, 3-baths
Casias said they are estimating that 1-bedroom, 1-bath will lease for an average of $625; 2-bedrooms, 2-baths for $1,081; and 3-bedrooms, 3-baths for $1,527. He added that if three students rent a 3-bedroom apartment, they will be able to lease for $509 each.
Markson said the 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom option is a new concept in the city and has never been done. He said if a developer offers three bedrooms, there are usually only two bathrooms.
A 4-bedroom, 4-bathrooms would be a more traditional student housing option for a university with freshmen and sophomores, he said.
Casias also said the complex will be an urban form product oriented to the street with wide sidewalks and parking in the rear. The style of architecture will be similar to Tobin Lofts at San Antonio College and The Landings at Brooks. Tobin Lofts will are slated to include retail on the first floor, but Casias said the housing complex at Verano will not contain retail. There will be retail on adjacent properties, he added.
University housing compared
Compared to the other two local universities — University of Texas at San Antonio and Texas State University — rates for university housing at Verano is less.
There are four student housing complexes on UTSA 1604 campus. Two are operated by the university and rates include a 2-bedroom for $739 per month per student or 3-bedroom for $679. There are also two complexes that are privately operated. Rates range from $525 to $948.
Texas State has more than 20 housing options with rates ranging from $340 to $3,600 per semester per resident.
NRP Group has previously developed other housing units on the South Side with prices ranging from $500 for a 1-bedroom, 1-bath on 953 square feet to $1,200 for a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom with living room space and a balcony on 1,044 square feet.
Verano plans for first phase
Also a part of the first phase of development is a 75,000 square foot building and 100 townhomes.
The 75,000 square foot building will be directly across Main Campus Building and south of the housing complex. Bartlett said it was too early to disclose information about the building’s use.
The townhomes will be located in the middle block of University Way east of the bridge and will be marketed to the general public and workers in the region.
Bartlett said the groundbreaking is expected to be in early 2013 and will take about 12 months to complete.
“We’re trying to keep up with the university as they create critical mass,” Bartlett said, “to make it more attractive for students to go to A&M-San Antonio.”
Trefzer said the university is excited about the growth of the campus and the development around it because the university will benefit.