Case Studies

Aviator Apartments — 210 Development Group

Adaptive reuse transforms old army barracks in Brooks City Base into modern community

In the south end of San Antonio, Texas, the Aviator Apartment project pays homage to the 1,200-acre Brooks Air Force Base and the city’s historic military roots. This part of the city is now known as Brooks City Base and has become a mini city within San Antonio, attracting large corporations and an influx of workers and young families. The project is spearheaded by 210 Development Group (210DG), in partnership with PPA group and Brooks Development Authority. 210DG is a local and privately owned real estate development company adept in urban revitalization, adaptive reuse, and multifamily construction services in municipal, state and federal markets.

Aviator Apartments — 210 Development Group

The Aviator Apartments adaptive reuse project has included a series of conversions that incorporate past and present. Approximately one-third of the 280 apartment units will be converted military barracks and an old military dining facility will serve as the new leasing office and community center. The project kicked off in November 2014 and currently has units ready for rent.

210DG has embraced the challenge and unique nature of the adaptive reuse concept. “We take pride in converting this site into apartments and saving these otherwise abandoned buildings from demolition, while giving something back to this part of the city,” says Alyson Callison, director of design at 210DG. “This project incorporates a vintage-meets-modern flair and includes some really interesting features, textures and aviation elements that make the units and the community center still feel like part of the old base.”

Grandfathered into early design challenges

Callison says merging the old and new, as well as a countless number of unexpected design and construction issues inherent to working with 60-plus year old facilities, all played into the overall challenge at Aviator Apartments. “You never know what you’re going to run into in this type of adaptive-reuse project,” she says. “We’re always finding issues we didn’t expect or plan for. Sometimes on these projects you are grandfathered into things, which can help you, or hurt you at the same time.”

“We take pride in converting this site into apartments and saving these otherwise abandoned buildings from demolition, while giving something back to this part of the city. “ – Alyson Callison, director of design at 210DG.

From the beginning, the as-built plans of the existing barracks buildings did not line up with the actual building. “The military didn’t keep accurate records of these plans. This created some delays in designing because of the old, outdated building plans,” says Callison.

In early site preparations, while waiting for the power provider to move poles, the 210DG team uncovered a giant manhole that turned out to be a 911 call center for the entire Brooks City Base. “We had to wait four weeks for someone to come out, disconnect and move the manhole that no one knew was there,” says Callison. “You literally never know what you’re going to uncover.”

210DG also found that the old dining hall building had little insulation. “It was simply insulation with chicken wire holding it on,” describes Callison. “That was all the ceiling was for the building’s life span thus far. We were grandfathered into this roof, so we decided to use metal panels as a decorative insulation to cover the existing material. This is not a covering we typically use, but it really lent itself to the aviation look we were going for.”

Another building that presenting a significant challenge is Building Nine, a dormitory style facility with tiny living-bedroom units and the newest of the historical buildings on site. “This unique H-shape building had been shut down for the past several years  so we had no idea what state the boiler system was in or if the plumbing and electrical would even work,” says Callison. “We budgeted as best we could and estimated all that it would entail. We just got the power back on in this building recently and so far so good. We are still waiting on the plumbing to be checked.”

Despite many challenges, the 210DG team hit a major milestone upon completion of the 9,000-square-foot community center club house, which was once just a concrete shell. “We were able to transform this facility while keeping the character, adding large hanger doors that fold open, utilizing the high ceilings with the new metal panels, and adding unique military touches,” details Callison.

First-class amenities

Along with the clubhouse, a community pool and dog park is being constructed. “The community center includes a large fitness center, a massive exercise room, a conference room and large gaming area,” says Callison. “Outside there’s a full-size bocce ball and horseshoe court and an outdoor fire pit and patio area. We’re really trying to make Aviator into a community, a place where you want to live and hang out together.”

In terms of individual units, Aviator Apartments ranges from two-story townhomes with an attached garage and two full bedrooms, two bathrooms and a spacious study, to studio-style single apartments and one, two and three bedroom units.

Despite the many challenges of an adaptive reuse project, Callison says the mission in mind is clear. “Every time we do a project like this it is a learning experience,” says Callison. “Oftentimes, we’re doing something we’ve never done before. But at $1.30 a square-foot, we’re making an affordable option and a high-quality product for those looking to live, work and play on Brooks City Base.”

With more than 300,000 square feet of new residential space, Aviator Apartments is adding quality housing to a once abandoned site and 210 Development Group and its partners have effectively transformed a site once fitting for demolition into a flagship project soaring to new heights.

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