The Museum Reach of the San Antonio River has brought new vitality to a once-forgotten stretch of the city’s prized resource. As cultural, restaurant, and retail developments spread along the river, it has become one of the most desirable places to live in San Antonio. With this in mind, Overland was brought on board to design riverfront multifamily housing made for twenty-first century urban living.
Experts project San Antonio’s population to double in the next twenty years. Much of the anticipated growth will follow the San Antonio River and what is known as the Broadway Corridor through midtown. Cultural institutions have been the driver for this revitalization, but high-end retail and restaurants soon followed. As Millennials and empty nesters flock to downtown to be near walkable urban spaces, developers are moving as quickly as possible to keep up with demand in housing.
River House’s location on the banks of the San Antonio River gave it an iconic position among the multifamily developments popping up along the Broadway Corridor. Overland wanted to take full advantage of the location, connecting every unit to the river itself. Residents of the modestly sized units would experience the benefits of their premium location thanks to conscientious design rather than luxury prices.
Overland Partners designed River House in a C-shape to maximize exposure to the river. The steep site turned out to be an advantage as they sought to maximize views of the river. Multilevel pools, large windows, and porches draw the social energy of residents out onto the Museum Reach, where a steady stream of runners, dog-walkers, and other pedestrians pass by.
As a neighbor to the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA), River House includes vertical elements and contextual shape to complement the historic building. Another, less picturesque neighbor was Interstate 35. Overland used a parking structure to create a sound buffer between residences and the highway. The rest of the parking is underground. Once the design team realized that they would have to over-excavate due to riverside soil conditions, they took advantage of the work and turned the space into parking.
Even without a parking lot view, the ground-level units of most multifamily developments are often the least desirable. Overland Senior Principal Bob Shemwell wanted every unit of River House to have unique appeal, including the often neglected ground story. “We wanted to flip that around and make the ground-level units the most interesting,” said Shemwell. To accomplish this, the units along Roy Smith Avenue, which divides the site and dead-ends into a pedestrian bridge, are arranged in a mews configuration. Walled gardens create private entrances to the ground units, and the sloped site allows for terraces on the back side of the units.
The budget for the development was tight. Any texture had to come from the essential building components themselves. Windows and environmental elements create the entire aesthetic of the building. Bioswales, native plants, and cleaning ponds connect the site to the atmosphere along the Museum Reach, while strategically placed windows maximize daylight river views, and create an interesting and inviting exterior. For units facing the street, Overland incorporated large convex bay windows so that by leaning out into the bay, residents can view the river at the end of the street. By providing the amenities for green urban living, the 261-unit multifamily complex will serve as a catalyst for transformation for this burgeoning area of downtown San Antonio.