County OKs incentives for mixed-use development near downtown San Antonio, will help replace blight

A pair of San Antonio developers are aiming to finish construction next year of a mixed-use development off a major corridor heading into downtown.

The project — on a roughly 5-acre site off U.S. 281 and about two blocks north of the Pearl — replaces self-storage facilities and billboard-type signs long seen as a blight on the “front door” to downtown from the North Side.

Embrey Partners is building a 338-unit apartment complex on the 800 block of East Ashby Place, and Area Real Estate is renovating the former Borden Creamery warehouse for office and retail space.

Embrey and Area Real Estate plan to invest up to $90 million in the development, according to documents prepared for a Bexar County commissioners meeting Tuesday.

They also will plug at least $3 million into improvements to the River Walk and East Ashby Place, including building a bridge over the river and a trail near the development.

County officials gave the green light Tuesday to a 60 percent tax abatement on eligible capital investments worth $1.3 million over a 10-year term. They also approved $750,000 for infrastructure improvements along the river.

The City Council in 2019 approved $4 million from the Midtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone for upgrades that include river work and tearing down billboards along the highway.

Tax increment reinvestment zones reimburse developers for infrastructure upgrades from property tax revenue.

Embrey’s project is being built in phases and is expected to be finished by the end of 2022, said spokesman Jeff Cowart.

David Adelman of Area Real Estate is using federal and state tax credits to rehabilitate the mustard-colored Borden building, which he is also seeking to have designated a historic landmark.

The Art Deco-style building was constructed in 1933 and designed by Ayres and Ayres, according to materials city staff prepared for a Historic and Design Review Commission meeting earlier this summer.

The creamery was expanded over the years. It had been dormant except for refrigeration units that were leased before Star Storage purchased it in 1999 for storage facilities.

A rendering shows designs presented to the Historic Design and Review Commission for the renovated Borden Creamery building.

Courtesy of Gomez Vazquez International

Work to turn it into office and retail space is expected to wrap up in nine months, Adelman said.