A long-time dream came closer to coming true for the east side as city council voted to go forward with a huge new development.
In 2010, neighbors said doing something with the abandoned Red Berry Estate was near the top of their wish list. On Thursday, their wish was granted with the passage of a comprehensive package to add all kinds of new resources to an area many consider the east side’s most valuable hidden treasure.
The 84-acre Red Berry Estate is about to become home to 330 brand new mixed-income apartments, and it will be the new headquarters of the RK Group.
Eastside neighbor Joy McGhee said
"We are absolutely ecstatic," said east-sider Joy McGhee, who's invested hours in the planning process where community members expressed their wishes. "We look forward to the ripples that it will have in our community for economic development, improving the quality of life, and the opportunities it will bring.”
Greg Kowalski of the RK Group called the new campus location a perfect fit.
"Where we are, we can't grow anymore," he said.
The catering company has been downtown for years at a site next to Sunset Station. But now they will bring more than 300 employees to the site. Kowalski said that they expect to grow their business with 100 new hires.
"We're able to bring them all in-house, so we can be a lot more efficient, all being in one location," Kowalski said.
The total price tag for the entire project is almost $62 million, and it includes restoration of the 1950’s mansion, upgrades to a scenic lake, and new connections to the nearby Salado Hike and Bike Trail.
The 330 mixed-income housing units will be developed by the NRP Group, where 50 percent of the units will be available to those earning less than 80 percent of the area median income.
Rent estimates ranged from $850 for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,075 for two bedrooms.
Staff predicted that the apartments will draw people who work for the RK Group, the San Antonio Spurs organization, and nearby Fort Sam Houston.
Councilman Clayton Perry urged staff to fully consider the traffic implications of so many new neighbors using Gembler Road.
Councilwoman Ana Sandoval said that she wanted regular progress reports on the project to be made available for citizens to review online.
While most city council members expressed support for the project, calling it long overdue, District 9's John Courage cast the lone dissenting vote.
"This dog don't hunt to me when I look at these numbers you're talking about," said Councilman Courage, who doesn’t believe that the average District 2 resident will be able to afford the new housing. “I don’t necessarily feel that Class A housing is what we need to be putting in there. I think we need to put in affordable housing, livable housing, functional housing people can enjoy and live comfortably. Let's not say everything has to be Class A. Let's do some B Plus housing. Let's do something that's truly affordable."
District 2 Representative William "Cruz" Shaw responded by saying all areas of town deserve equity when it comes to new development.
"District 2 deserves Class A housing," Councilman Shaw said. "When you actually live there, you work there, you walk the lake, it's going to change the mentality of a lot of people, saying, 'This is a great community!'"
“We have people of all types on the east side and we’re very diverse and we’re very beautiful and we deserve to have what other sides of town have," McGhee said.
City staff members said that planning will take almost a full year, so construction will start next fall. The completion date is sometime in 2020.