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Title - R&D - Site DemonstrationsTitle - ArrowSmall

San Antonio, Texas

Demonstration Site: Highland Hills Cottage Development

The Highland Hills Cottage Development will encompass 26 unique affordable houses and cottages on a vacant five-acre lot. A dozen affordable subsidized cottages will be mixed with 14 market-rate homes. Targeted for area seniors, this cottage project allows one to age gracefully in one's own community by providing an alternative to costly rehabs or maintenance on aging homes that occupants can't afford or for houses that are too large for their current needs. "Visitability" for the units is a requirement.

Steven Winter Associates has reviewed and revised the cottage site plan, and created preliminary plans for two cottage types. San Antonio's Planning Department designed the original site plan and San Antonio Redevelopment Agency is the developer. The non-profit Mexican American Unity Council's development arm will build the non-market cottages. Two for-profit builders--Elite Homes and Rendon Homes--will build the cottages and houses. Local utilities are participating with infrastructure and solar.

This is a two-phased project and certain single-family houses were built, sold, and occupied. The cottage portion was on the interior of the site, and there were planning approval issues regarding the site of turn around for fire truck access. During this review period, San Antonio experienced heavy rains and flooding. There is a large storm drain structure running diagonally through the site. The flood plane levels were then reconsidered, and the existing site plan was rejected. The project was not progressing.

A public/privately-funded project, entitled Big Town Plaza, was added to District 4 of San Antonio. The project consists of a mix use development in which the same design used for the cottages in Highland Hills will be used, along with a nonprofit-built health clinic, and live/work or commercial. This plan is designed to turn around a traditionally depressed area, allowing neighborhood seniors the opportunity to purchase a new cottage and sell their old home to the nonprofit. All these older homes will be renovated and sold during the last phase of the project.


Highland Hills will feature architecturally and technically innovative inner city cottages built with many PATH-evaluated technologies. Solar water heating and the possible use of photovoltaics for common and area lighting are combined with SIPs for energy efficiency. Xeriscaping and rainwater harvesting will make the development eligible for a rebate from the city's water department. The site plan allows for a common green space and community gardens to encourage community connection and involvement.

Status Updates

August, 2003 - The San Antonio Development Authority ( SADA) has hired a different civil engineering firm to revisit the flood plane level concerns that previously halted Highland Hills. Preliminary results appear that the original site plan can be built. Additional review is required. Four Big Town Plaza cottage units are planned in lieu of five because of parking requirements. The nonprofit medical building is now 3,000 square feet with a doctor and dentist identified. A 1,500 square foot single story commercial building will be built. The marketing of cottages will be conducted by the nonprofit New Life Christian Center. Site demolition has been completed.

March 2003 - The San Antonio Development Authority has hired another engineering firm to help them with the issue of site drainage and design. This issue became challenging as a result of the massive floods San Antonio endured last year. The agency has still not determined the final count for the number of cottages.

Project Chronology

Content updated on 8/24/2004

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