Journal of Housing & Community Development

Sustainable Senior Living in San Antonio

August 14, 2020

The San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) wins a 2019 Award of Excellence in Project Design for their successful completion of Wheatley Park Senior Living. Nominated from among the NAHRO Awards of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in October. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development.  

Wheatley Park Senior Living was part of the third and final redevelopment phase to transform Wheatley Courts into East Meadows through a HUD Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant. Located in the bi-lingual East Point neighborhood of San Antonio, Wheatley Park offers senior housing for a diverse community. The 80 one- and two- bedroom mixed-income units include public housing, project-based vouchers, and affordable housing options. The San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) was a co-developer in the project, in partnership with McCormack Baron Salazar (MBS) and Cadence McShane. SAHA led the relocation process, ensuring that residents who moved during construction had the first right to return to redeveloped units.  

Wheatley Courts was originally constructed in 1940. After decades of use, the 40 residential buildings and their 246 public housing units had become obsolete. SAHA engaged the existing community to give them a voice in the architectural redesign. Residents wanted the design to blend in with the rest of the neighborhood and the larger East Meadows redevelopment plans. The façade on the senior living building intentionally matches the East Meadows I building that SAHA constructed during an earlier project phase. Exterior designs on the building also reflect the historic detailing of single-family homes in the East Point neighborhood. The completed exterior includes shingle siding, stucco finish, corbels, and columns. Landscaping complements the architectural design with native plants and gardens.   

Scaled down from the size of the original Wheatley Courts residences, the senior living building is a U-shaped, three story structure with a large courtyard that functions as a front porch for resident use. The porch includes gas grills and shaded areas with ceiling fans. Parking is located in front of the courtyard. Convenient access to public walking trails is also available. Indoor amenities include laundry facilities, a community room, a media room, a game room, a kitchen and dining area, a business center, and a fitness center. Residents have access to optional case management services to connect them with any resources or activities they may need. To ensure resident safety, the building requires a key fob at all entries. Access through the parking lot gate is also limited.  

SAHA designed Wheatley Park Senior Living to be surrounded by the new family development that is another part of the larger Choice Neighborhoods transformation effort. The neighborhood includes a grocery store, one-acre park, and a health care facility constructed in partnership with the University Health System. Residents have direct access to a sheltered VIA Metro bus stop that connects them with other areas of the city. Downtown San Antonio is located close to the development, with the AT&T Center, Fort Sam Houston, and the Alamodome also located nearby. The entire redevelopment process brought needed investments from both the city and private investors to the East Point neighborhood. The community benefits from the new streets, curbs, sidewalks, driveway aprons, lighting, tree-lined streets, and other improvements that are essential parts of the East Meadows redevelopment.  

Project design efforts focused on sustainability. During development, SAHA worked closely with all contractors on the project to ensure compliance with sustainability ratings. Wheatley Park Senior Living exceeds the requirements for Build San Antonio Green (BSAG) Level Two and Enterprise Green Communities. BSAG is a local Green Certification Body with energy efficiency, water conservation, site, and health (Indoor Air Quality) requirements. An Energy Star rater also tested the development for energy compliance of 30% above IECC 2009 code and Energy Star v.3 requirements. The maintenance of these standards should result in an average 20-25 percent savings on resident utility bills.  

The building achieves sustainability through its intentional use of materials. All indoor spaces feature efficiency water and electrical fixtures. A tankless, gas fired boiler conserves energy while producing hot water. The Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) system provides air conditioning with lower electricity usage. Low-flow toilets, faucet, and shower heads conserve water along with a pump that re-circulates water through the system and a containment method that reuses water surface runoff on exterior vegetation.  

High-quality indoor air is maintained through the use of Low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), low to no formaldehyde products, and mold preventing materials. Ductwork in the ventilation system also circulates fresh air into the bathroom areas. All windows and doors in the building are Energy Star Qualified. The extreme Texas heat in the San Antonio area requires the use of protective insulation and weather barriers. A radiant barrier roof decking and an Energy Star certified composition shingle roof ward off the much of the direct sunlight. The Zip-R sheathing by Huber Engineered Woods provides a further weather barrier for the building.  

The total cost per unit for Wheatley Park was $194,142, which was higher than originally anticipated. Construction costs rose about 10-15 percent during the 2-year construction period. Developers obtained a total of $15,531,364 from all funding sources. In addition to the Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant, the development received funding from SAHA Moving to Work (MTW) funds, San Antonio Housing Facility Corporation (SAHFC) HUD Replacement Housing Factor grants, SAHFC land loan disposition funds, tax credit equity, construction loans, and city of San Antonio HOME funds.  

SAHA’s project design for Wheatley Park Senior Living is truly innovative in its use of responsive architectural features and sustainable materials. The development will provide a quality, affordable housing option for San Antonio seniors for many more decades. 

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