Vivo Living

Formerly a Quality Inn, this building is being converted into studio apartments by Vivo Living in New Braunfels.

A plan to convert a hotel into studio apartments for long-term occupancy is one step closer to reality after New Braunfels City Council members on Monday voted 6-0 to give initial approval to a rezoning and special use permit request allowing a California-based investment group to repurpose more units on the property than provided under city code.

Council member Shane Hines was absent from the meeting.

Plans call for Vivo Investment Group, which specializes in recycling hotels into apartment complexes, to convert 75 rooms at the three-story former Quality Inn on the I-35 frontage road south of Loop 337 into long-term studio apartments.

However, city ordinance allows a maximum of 64 units at the site. Multifamily residential use is already allowed by right in a C-3 Commercial District, but the maximum number of dwelling units allowed on a property under that zoning is determined by the size of the lot. 

Development standards require a minimum of 15,000 square feet for the first 10 units and an additional 1,500 square feet per dwelling unit after that.

The property consists of two lots totaling 2.2 acres — about 95,875 square feet — which allows a maximum of 64 dwelling units under the C-3 standards, 11 units short of the 75 units developers are proposing for the project.

The company’s site plan indicates the off-street parking requirement would be accommodated within the existing structure, while a vacant lot would be used for resident amenities, including lounge areas, barbeque grills, a community garden, bocce court and a dog park.

“Our communities feature Class A amenities that you would find at a new build apartment communities because these are hotels,” Dan Norville, Vivo Investment Group’s founder and chief executive officer, told council members. “We put in coworking spaces. We have pools. We have recreational areas, outdoor areas. Because we put these things in and because we take a cost-effective approach to designing these communities, we are able to provide those amenities that a lot of other 1970s, 1980s garden-style apartment communities in workforce space can’t. That really helps us to stand out.”

Norville added that a company goal is “to create friendships within our community” through events for residents held at least once a quarter as well as job training classes and resume workshops.

According to company information, anticipated monthly rental rates would run about $825 to $950. 

Norville told the Herald-Zeitung that if council members approve the second reading of the special use permit request, the former Quality Inn conversion process will take about two to three months since the property is relatively new.

The property is located within the airport hazard overlay district for building height but does not impact the existing structure or proposed redevelopment.

“In order to have a vibrant community, we have to have a vibrant and diverse housing portfolio in our community,” Mayor Pro Tem Justin Meadows said. “That ranges from anyone that is experiencing homelessness, getting them into some form of shelter or transitional housing opportunity to getting folks into a rental situation which basic supply and demand as our rental rates inflated in our community. This is a nice medium between transitional and apartment living in the normal sense of what we experience every day and homeownership onto senior living and beyond.”

A second reading of the request is slated for council consideration on Dec. 13.

Council members in July approved an ordinance defining efficiency and studio apartments in city code and identifying vehicle parking standards for those types of housing units.

City staffers told council members at that time they had identified a need to determine an appropriate parking standard for efficiency and studio apartments that consist of one common room for living, with a separate room allowed only for the bathroom.

The ordinance defines a studio or efficiency apartment as “a dwelling unit consisting of a single room for cooking, eating, sleeping and living, and a separate room for bath and toilet facilities also referred to as a studio apartment or unit.”

The ordinance fixes the minimum parking standard at 1.1 spaces per unit.

The Planning Commission recommended approval of Vivo’s request during their Nov. 2 meeting.

The former Quality Inn represents the second project Vivo is undertaking in New Braunfels.

Conversion of 139 units at the former Ramada Inn on I-35 near Loop 337 is near completion.

The former Ramada project did not require rezoning or a special use permit as commercial zoning already allows multifamily residential use at the site and the site plan fulfills density requirements.

Norville said apartment pre-leasing at the former Ramada site would start next month.

In a previous Herald-Zeitung interview, Norville described the projects as “workforce housing.”

“Workforce means that we’re targeting, not the top half echelon and not the bottom of the bottom,” he said. “We’re in that middle-income space. I view it as the 20% to 50% space where there is the majority of the blue-collar workers, the service workers, first responders, nurses and construction workers that are housing- and cost-burdened in every city. These people are paying more than 50% of their income on rent most of the time. It’s expensive to live in most cities these days, and it’s only getting worse. We’re really trying to provide that solution, and a lot of the time, we’re doing it privately, so we’re not asking for city support or government funding.”

Norville said the company has 20 such projects in various stages of development across the country.

 

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