SAN ANTONIO -- It's not much to look at now, but a tired industrial site just five blocks south of the Alamodome is about to be transformed into a vibrant mixed-use community.
The project is taking shape on Essex Street south of Carolina Street and slightly east of I-37.
"Essex Modern City is the name. It is eight acres. It's going to be a mix of retail, for sale condos, for rental multi-family and then office space,” said Developer Efraim Varga.
Varga said it’s a long name, but he calls this a community-oriented sustainable urban development.
He said where sky-high stacks of wooden pallets now stand, there will be vertical gardens that will grow food for on-site specialty restaurants.
There will be a mix of high-end and affordable lofts and studios with live-work spaces they hope will draw a new kind of worker.
Cafes and clubs will offer places to play and Varga said all elements of the development will focus on technology so that everything will be connected.
"It’s 5 o'clock and you get a message from your favorite restaurant that says 'hey, happy hour is starting and we have this and this today," Varga said. "We're trying to kind of go back to the way cities were built for the last 500 to 1,000 years. You had a center plaza and then you had all the buildings and then you had all the community get together and socialize and have events and gatherings inside the plaza."
Varga said walkability is an important consideration.
"We want to get cars out of the picture and have the plaza, the streets, everything will be for pedestrians to get together and socialize."
He said they want the project to have a pure local feel so they have no plan to incorporate chain retail outlets.
"We are looking for San Antonio-based tenants," Varga said. "We're also incorporating a climbing wall into the building, so you might get a message that says ‘this person beat last week’s time climbing the wall."
With regard to who will populate this new village, Varga said he believes millennials will be anxious to share the space, but he also thinks empty-nesters will find it attractive.
“You know, the kids moved out. They're done with work. They want to come to town and be able to walk to restaurants, coffee shops and little bars, their favorite spots. So we do think it's going to be a mix. But we do think it's going to be a majority of the millennials that move in,” Varga said.
The sale of the parcel was completed about two months ago, and the previous owner still has two months to vacate the property.
Right now all the important work related to this project is happening with technology. Varga said they are still in the schematic design phase, but he said they expect dirt to start turning in about one year.