San Antonio’s Downtown Takes On New Life

Vidorra’s Luxury Condominium Projects Soar Sky High

The wave of interest in downtown living spreading across the country is now sweeping into San Antonio. Baby Boomers and Millennials are leading the way, as the urban lifestyle becomes an increasingly popular choice. Baby Boomers, who frequently find their half-empty abodes too much to care for with the children gone, have been among the first to embrace shedding the time and expense associated with maintaining a large-single family home. They are increasingly opting for the cultural and lifestyle amenities offered in the center of the city. At the same time, Millennials are just starting their careers and are overwhelmingly choosing urban living, shunning the suburban lifestyle many grew up in for the allure of living, working and playing in the vibrant downtown area.

What makes downtown living so compelling? Walkability, easy access to some of the city’s best dining and entertainment options, and the free time to enjoy it all are some of the most common reasons residents of downtown’s Vidorra luxury condominiums cite when asked about their new lifestyle. Completed in May 2009 and approaching its final sellout phase, Vidorra is San Antonio’s most successful for-sale condominium project.  Like the trends indicate, homeowners include those who have downsized from larger single-family homes, time-challenged corporate executives and physicians, and young professionals purchasing their first home. Many say Vidorra’s convenient location and luxury lifestyle, including 24/7 concierge, saltwater swimming pool, private fitness center, and Sky Room, were key in their decision to buy downtown.

With several distinctive floor plans designed to accommodate the needs of many different lifestyles, interior finishes include granite and marble counters, wood floors, stainless steel appliance packages and private balconies to enjoy the views of the city. An important component of Vidorra’s success is the variety of mortgage financing options available, including Wells Fargo’s Neighborhood Community Development Mortgage Program. Vidorra is the only high-rise condominium in San Antonio to offer this program, which allows borrowers to make very low down payments, with no mortgage insurance premiums and lower closing costs.

A derivation of the Spanish word for life, Vidorra loosely translates as “the good life”, an apt description echoed by many Vidorra residents. As Mae Escobar, a local public relations executive describes it, life at Vidorra is “everything I never knew I always wanted and needed in a home. For a busy professional, I can’t imagine a more ideal setting. The privacy and security of the building, along with all the amenities, especially the 24-hour concierge service, make life so enjoyable and relaxing, even with my hectic schedule.” Corporate executive Dave Martin adds, “I travel frequently with my job and living at Vidorra is perfect for me. It has allowed me to de-clutter and simplify my life. It is ten minutes to the airport and five minutes to my office. There are no more water days, no more trash days and I enjoy the dry cleaning services. I can walk to a major shopping mall in less than five minutes and I like to tell people the Riverwalk is my new back yard, except I don’t have to mow it. I also get to enjoy all the restaurants and bars downtown has to offer.”

The multitude of amenities in downtown San Antonio creates a distinct neighborhood experience that appeals to those living in the center city. The many theatres, including the Majestic, Charlene McCombs, Cameo and the soon-to-be completed Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, and the marquis sporting events at the Alamodome and AT&T Center, all provide ample entertainment options year-round. San Antonio is rapidly gaining a reputation as a destination city for culinary enthusiasts and downtown is home to some of the country’s hottest new restaurants by local celebrity chefs, including Bruce Auden, Andrew Weissman, Steve McHugh, and Jason Dady. The popularity of crafted cocktails also finds its roots in downtown, with Bohanan’s on Houston Street playing host to the annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference in January. Just a few blocks from Vidorra, the Alamo Beer Company is building a new microbrewery and restaurant that will open next year. HemisFair Park is undergoing a major redevelopment that will turn it into a world class urban park, and San Antonio’s new streetcar line will run through the park and stop at the Robert Thompson Transit Center, just a few blocks from Vidorra at the Alamodome. As for grocery shopping, Vidorra has a partnership with Whole Foods Market to offer $5.00 grocery weekly delivery, and H.E.B. has 11 grocery stores inside a five-mile radius of downtown.

The surging interest in downtown living has spurred recent public-private initiatives, including SA2020, focused on encouraging residential and commercial development in the downtown core. Ben Brewer, President of Downtown Alliance San Antonio, has said that demographics are key to this transformation. “The Millennials choose urban over suburban, and they choose communities committed to sustainability,” says Brewer. “They choose communities with good job options, good housing options at a variety of affordability levels, and good transportation options. All these elements are coming together to make San Antonio’s center city attractive to Millennials. At the same time, the Baby Boomers are leaving their homes in the suburbs, in search of the freedom of a lock-and-go lifestyle. From a policy standpoint, these fundamentals should drive every decision we make because they are critical to making San Antonio a place of choice. The great news is, these pieces are starting to fall into place.”

Angela M. Rinehart is owner/broker of Centre Group Consulting, specializing in strategic consulting services for real estate development ventures. Her passion is urban infill development, and she has worked on urban development projects in Austin, Houston and San Antonio. She lives and works in downtown San Antonio.