Benefits, drawbacks of new complex remain uncertain

Special to the Star
The lot of the future Concho Commons apartment complex is located on University Drive. Construction will proceed despite the denial of two additional stories.

San Antonio developer Darren Casey of Casey Development Ltd. is moving forward with an approved 13-story apartment complex downtown after the city council denied the addition of two levels.

Councilwoman Lisa Prewitt, Place 1, voted against the addition to the Concho Commons apartment complex. She said she could not support the plan in light of a decision made by the council last year to strive toward more affordable housing.

She believed the density the addition would add, paired with cost of the apartments, would not be conducive to socioeconomic diversity and would attract only an exclusive group of renters.

“It just wasn’t able to fulfill my needs and our terms,” Prewitt said. “We want diversified housing and need to begin negotiations with all housing for both students and families.

Casey said he was shocked when the proposal was not approved.

“The interesting thing is it was all but approved before the vote,” Casey said. “We had favorable recommendations from (Planning & Zoning Commission) and from the council. We went through negotiations and complied with their concerns.”

The apartment high-rise originally approved in October 2012 includes 310 units and a total of 585 bedrooms. The additional floors would bring those beds up to more than 800, Prewitt said.

Councilman Shane Scott, Place 6, voted in favor of adding two floors and “completely disagrees” with Prewitt.

Scott thinks the apartments will be affordable for the people they are meant to attract.

“I trust the market research they’ve done,” he said.

The specifically targeted demographic is the problem, Prewitt said of Casey’s plan.

Prewitt said preventing the downtown area from becoming too exclusive is important to her. In dense areas such as downtown San Marcos, the council has to be vigilant and make sure all housing is affordable.

“I would hope it’s a conversation we can have in the future with the developer,” Prewitt said. “The way the situation was explained to me, (Casey Development Ltd.) didn’t even have a chance to respond to our complaints.”

This is not the first time Casey felt blindsided by the council, he said.

Casey Development Ltd. filed a suit against the council last January. The council was stated to have used “illegal efforts to prevent Casey’s development.” Another concern was “Casey has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars unsuccessfully to satisfy the city’s whims.”

Casey refused to comment on the lawsuit but said it concerned a separate project that was abandoned. Casey Development Ltd. did not win the lawsuit.

Prewitt hopes Casey Development Ltd. can try again within the 90-day window because the council’s vote was neither a denial nor approval without a fourth vote.

Scott hopes the company will try again because “the general consensus prefers the high density.”

Casey, however, said he is not interested in trying again for now and will instead continue with the approved 13 stories.