October 10 2020

Behind the Deal: SA developer on the genesis of 97-acre new urbanism project

by W. Scott Bailey, Senior Reporter
This article was originally published in the San Antonio Business Journal on December 2nd, 2019.

Veteran San Antonio real estate broker Ed Cross doesn’t put on his developer hat too often, but when he does, it’s typically for a landmark project that requires trailblazing courage.

Such was the case with The Vistana, a 14-story residential tower that Cross and his group developed a decade ago on the western edge of downtown San Antonio that proved market-rate housing in the center city can work.

Now, he’s taking that pioneering spirit to the Westover Hills area with a 97-acre development called Vicinia that will bring a new approach to community building in one of the Alamo City’s most populated areas.

I basically do a development every 10 years,” Cross said.

This latest project is a first for San Antonio. It will borrow from a new urbanism template found in places like Stapleton in Denver, with its centerpiece a town square that will connect residential, retail, and office spaces.

In a roundabout way, VIA Metropolitan Transit provided some inspiration for the pedestrian-oriented development — as well as access to land for the unique project.

“Five years ago, I was dealing with VIA. They wanted to buy the Scobey complex, which I owned on the West Side next to their headquarters,” Cross said. “We ultimately sold it to them. But along the way, we learned about this property they owned.”

VIA controlled 59 acres near where West Military Drive runs into Potranco Road — not far from U.S. Highway 151.

The tract, which was an old farm, sat vacant and undeveloped, said Cross, who is general partner for PMI 2016, the group developing Vicinia, as well as CEO of San Antonio Commercial Advisors, a commercial real estate company affiliated with Cushman & Wakefield. PMI 2016 put the property under contract and applied for 2017 municipal bond money to help cover the cost for infrastructure improvements in the area.

“We worked with the city and agreed to pay for the soft costs and contribute the right of way,” Cross said.

Since then, his group has acquired nearly 40 additional acres in the immediate vicinity. It’s taken roughly five years for Cross and company to bring Vicinia from the drawing board to a ground breaking in recent days.

Cross’ group hired a land planner in Lafayette, Louisiana, Steve Oubre, a new urbanist architect who has worked on more than two dozen such projects — mostly in the South.

“He’s a gifted, thoughtful, experienced designer,” Cross said.

Despite the help, Cross is aware that, as with The Vistana, he’s taking a risk with Vicinia.

New urbanism has been deployed all over the country. But we’ve never done one in San Antonio,” he said. “I convinced my partners and investors we needed to do this.”

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