Skyline: VIA seeking proposals to redevelop vacant industrial complex on West Side

Skyline: VIA seeking proposals to redevelop vacant industrial complex on West Side

Photo of Madison Iszler

A renaissance could be in store for a row of empty gray and rust-colored buildings on the near West Side.

VIA Metropolitan Transit is seeking proposals for redeveloping the historic Scobey complex, a roughly 270,000-square-foot site it purchased in 2017 with the aim of creating a mixed-use development near its headquarters and Centro Plaza transit center.

The vacant structures, surrounded by government buildings and other abandoned industrial husks, could be turned into affordable and market-rate housing, offices and retail space.

“These should not be used as the only options, but as background and guiding principles,” the agency said in its solicitation for propositions, which are due Dec. 17. “The project that is proposed should be a market-driven and supported development that will be able to further the transit-oriented community goals that VIA has set while at the same time providing a revenue source to VIA.”

The historic complex at 301 North Medina St. dates back to the early 1900s. Lettering for the Scobey Fireproof Storage Co. still looms over an entrance.

It sits near the Bexar County Adult Detention Center, the Haven for Hope 亚洲游国际集团homeless shelter and University Health System’s Robert B. Green campus. The University of Texas at San Antonio’s downtown campus, which is set to undergo a major expansion, is a few blocks south.

Before VIA acquired the Scobey, developer Ed Cross saw the property’s potential.

There aren’t many concrete loft warehouse buildings in San Antonio, he said, and the complex also features mushroom columns. He purchased it in 1999, planning to wait until there was more activity in the neighborhood and then revive the Scobey.

“When I got involved with it, that area was abandoned,” Cross said. “It was very, very quiet.”

Multiple attempts to remake the complex fizzled. Cross pitched the property as a potential headquarters for the San Antonio Water System and later for the San Antonio Police Department, but both organizations chose other sites.

A deal to sell the property to another developer who wanted to turn it into a mixed-use site also fell through. VIA acquired the complex in 2017 from two partnerships managed by Cross and set out to develop a master plan for the site.

After outlining several ideas and options in the master plan, VIA released a request for information and hosted site tours this spring. The responses indicate “there is a market interest to develop the Scobey with VIA,” strategic planner Brandon Thomas told the agency’s board in August.

Possibilities included residential projects “with a focus on a strong affordable housing mix” and a mixed-use development.

VIA could consider selling or leasing the property, using office space there and providing property tax breaks, Thomas added. In his presentation, he listed a tax abatement as one of the agency’s contributions.

The timing for its transformation may be right. Cross sees remaking the Scobey as “one of the more incredible opportunities” available to developers.

“The neighborhood has absolutely made the turn, and I personally think it’s one of the next great neighborhoods in San Antonio,” he said. “I think you’re going to start seeing growth on the west side of downtown.”

With improvements to the San Pedro Creek Culture Park underway and a flurry of projects planned downtown, more development is expected to ripple outward, generating concerns about gentrification on the near West Side.

Aside from UTSA’s expansion, other projects are in the works near the Scobey. Nonprofit developer Alamo Community Group plans to break ground early next year on a 140-unit complex at 811 W. Houston St., near VIA’s Centro Plaza, and is teaming with the San Antonio Housing Trust Public Facility Corp.

Only two of the apartments will be priced at market rates, with the rest reserved for residents earning 30 percent to 80 percent of the area median income.

Less than two miles west of the Scobey site, the Westside Development Corp. plans to partner with a developer to turn the Basila Frocks building into space for small businesses and community gatherings.

“The West Side is kind of the last frontier of development around downtown,” said Ramiro Gonzales, the WDC’s CEO. “We already see lots being purchased on the West Side here and there. We just haven’t seen a lot of actual (projects) coming up out of the ground yet, so that’s kind of what everybody’s waiting for.”

South of the Scobey, the San Antonio Housing ity is working with local developer Mission DG on an apartment complex at 200 Tampico St.

Sixty-four of the 200 units will be market rate, with the rest ranging between 30 to 80 percent of the area median income, according to figures provided by SAHA. Construction is expected to start in July, and the apartments will be near the Peanut Factory Lofts, which Mission DG built in 2014 and later sold.

Not far from the Tampico project, a battle is ongoing over plans to demolish the Alazán Courts public housing complex and replace it with mixed-income housing.

Affordable housing proponents, community advocates and some SAHA residents say many of the families living at the courts, the city’s oldest and largest public housing community, won’t be able to afford the new units.

SAHA has said it will aim to set aside as many units as possible for residents with extremely low incomes at the new development, and also reserve spots at other complexes and provide rental vouchers.

“SAHA’s current timeline for the development of the Alazán-Apache Courts will accelerate housing instability for the families in the area,” Jessica Guerrero, the chair of the city’s housing commission, said earlier this month. “It will accelerate displacement of the SAHA residents you serve, and it will also decrease our city’s supply of precious, affordable housing.”

madison.iszler@express-news.net