1. Let There Be Light
When Area Real Estate bought a stalled 268-unit apartment complex in the River Walk North section of San Antonio, it transformed the drab concrete buildings from top to bottom. Light was an important amenity, since the original units were dark and claustrophobic; new, floor-to-ceiling, 8- to 12-foot-long, high-performance low-E windows were installed, helping cut the heat in the hot summer months.
2. Slick Finishes
Despite the overall gritty aesthetic desired, some favorite classic modern materials were incorporated, such as maple-veneer cabinets, granite countertops, and stainless steel appliances, all of which upgrade the look for an innovative high-end mix. Because of the concrete envelope, recessed cans couldn’t be installed; instead, contemporary track lights were mounted to the ceiling.
3. Open Sesame
The interiors of the apartments were redone, except for the concrete party walls between units, which had to remain in place for financial reasons. The new layouts now are open, with exposed ductwork, concrete columns, and polished-concrete floors. Curtains were used to screen a bedroom area in a model unit and show how to soften the hard surfaces.
4. Skywalking Panorama
The rooftop of one of the 19 buildings gained a lap pool for swimming, cooling off, and enjoying views of the city’s surroundings, including the San Antonio Museum of Art and the famous River Walk. The design team built above-ground bridges between buildings to eliminate the need to cross busy streets. Open at the sides and with two separate levels, the bridges connect the four-story buildings and also provide expansive views of the area and the site’s newly landscaped courtyards.
5. Edgy Vibe
Each building was designed to be unique rather than have cookie-cutter apartment layouts. Studios to two-bedroom units range from 600 to 950 square feet, and the expansive floor plans resemble original New York City “hard” lofts, which are attracting attention in San Antonio as empty-nesters and young professionals gravitate to city living.