Museum Reach Lofts, rare affordable housing near San Antonio’s Pearl district, welcomes first residents

click to enlarge The Museum Reach Lofts, 1500 N. St. Mary’s St., began receiving its first residents this week. - Ben Olivo / SA Heron
Ben Olivo / SA Heron
The Museum Reach Lofts, 1500 N. St. Mary’s St., began receiving its first residents this week.

For the first time in recent memory, low-income renters began moving into newly-built apartments in downtown San Antonio.

The $17.5 million Museum Reach Lofts is an affordable housing development on North St. Mary’s Street and West Jones Avenue near the Pearl by local nonprofit developer Alamo Community Group that’s nearing completion.

Unlike the 20 or so apartment buildings that have been constructed using city tax breaks and other subsidies since San Antonio began prioritizing downtown housing, the Museum Reach Lofts offers rents most people would consider truly affordable to the average San Antonian.

For example, rents for households making up to 30% of the area median income (AMI), or $21,600 for a family of four, start at $290 for an efficiency, $308 for a one-bedroom, and $365 for a two-bedroom.

[ For an explanation of area median income, and why it’s so controversial, read, “The San Antonio-New Braunfels median income rises to $72,000. Here’s why it matters.” ]

Most of the Museum Reach Lofts’ 94 units are priced for people earning 60% AMI or less. Only nine are market-rate-priced. So far, the property is 35% leased.

Since the downtown area began its housing boom 10 years ago, the vast majority of the apartments created have been either market rate or priced for people earning up to 80% AMI, which housing advocates argue is still beyond reach for most San Antonians. 

The Museum Reach Lofts’ lower rents are the first of its kind for downtown San Antonio in terms of new construction, especially when you consider its location in the Pearl area, where rents are the highest than in other regions in San Antonio, according to surveys by housing research firms in recent years. The area, known as Midtown, is one of 13 regional centers outlined in the SA Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan, which calls for a mix of housing options.

The five-story building is located at 1500 N. St. Mary’s St., down the street from the San Antonio Museum of Art. Alamo Community Group envisions the average worker at the museum, and office jobs opening up from the new construction on Broadway, renting at the lofts. They also envision downtown hospitality workers living there, too.

So far, the demand has been huge.

“Right now, we have 40 applicants pending. We only have 94 units,” said Michael Shackelford, Alamo Community Group’s director of policy. “You can imagine these will go quickly. Especially with COVID right now, everybody’s trying to get into something affordable or they’re being forced (to) because their wages are being cut.”

This week, the lofts received its first certificate of occupancy for the second floor, which allowed residents to start moving in. Certificates of occupancy are still required for the other floors. Alamo Community Group expects the entire project to be completed by mid-January.

The Museum Reach Lofts offers two computer labs for residents, and a rooftop terrace with views of the Tower of the Americas and the Tower Life building, among other amenities.

Alamo Community Group, which also owns the Calcasieu Apartments on Broadway, is planning to build another affordable development in west downtown near the University of Texas at San Antonio’s campus.

“As we wrap up the construction, we will immediately focus on the pre-development of Cattleman Square Lofts, which is located in the heart of the West Side and provides truly affordable units in that area,” Jennifer Gonzales, Alamo Community Group’s executive director, said in a statement.

The Museum Reach Lofts has received an incentive package that includes a $2.8 million reimbursement grant from the Midtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ), and 9% low-income housing tax credits from the federal government worth an estimated $10 million. It’s also receiving a 75% rebate on city property taxes over 10 years; the other 25% will feed into the city’s affordable housing fund.”

click to enlarge An efficiency apartment at the Museum Reach Lofts. - Ben Olivo / SA Heron
Ben Olivo / SA Heron
An efficiency apartment at the Museum Reach Lofts.

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