Nostalgic purchase- Aurora Apartments
Web Posted: 10/24/2007 07:57 PM CDT
Creighton A. Welch
Express-News Business Writer
Mitch Meyer may be just what the Aurora Apartments needs.
After years of neglect and out-of-town ownership, the San Antonio developer has purchased the historic 105-room apartment complex at Cypress and Howard streets.
"I really feel lucky to have gotten this building," Meyer said. "I've just admired it forever."
Completed in 1930, the Aurora used to be San Antonio's premier hotel, where guests enjoyed rooftop views and gothic architecture. That aura eventually faded, which led to the hotel's demise.
It's now an affordable housing unit through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, where it serves a purpose, but not the purpose it was built to have.
Eventually, Meyer sees the Tobin Hill, Pearl Brewery and River North neighborhoods all becoming one large urban area, with his Aurora a key part of that small community created by people who want to live in an urban environment and not miles away from town.
An interior in the Aurora Apartments, which still has its orginal plaster and floors.
"People are getting tired of living in their cars," Meyer said.
Meyer purchased the building from California-based Churchill Family Trust in late September.
The trust bought the apartments less than two years ago. Before the California business, a Dallas partnership had owned the Aurora since 1982. In 1982, there was a $2.7 million renovation, but little work has been done since.
Meyer is principal at Loopy Ltd., which owns six office and parking properties on adjacent blocks to the Aurora, according to county records.
Meyer grew up in San Antonio and has developed projects such as the La Cascada condominiums and Hippo's Grocery and Deli.
His local ties seem to give him more drive to revive the Aurora.
"The building is underutilized," Meyer said. "This has a lot of potential."
Meyer hopes to unlock that potential — literally.
An area that used to be a restaurant currently hides behind locked doors.
A 1937 menu found in a scrapbook offers sirloin steak ($1), spring chicken (75 cents), boiled ox tongue (60 cents) and peaches in cream (25 cents).
Meyer has dreams of reviving the restaurant.
The 10th floor could offer a panoramic view of the city. But it's also behind locked doors and is covered with air-conditioning units.
A large hall for elegant parties or dining has old books and bingo boards scattered throughout it.
The apartment complex hasn't been renovated in 25 years, and its colored tile floors yearn to be polished and danced on like at the elegant parties of decades ago. It has wooden phone booths, a carved fireplace and a panoramic rooftop view.
Even without any renovations, it still turns heads.
"There's a wow factor as it is," Meyer said. "People have always been mystified by it."
He said he doesn't know exactly what renovations will take place, but insists that they will give the Aurora the beauty it deserves. Meyer said he will focus on a lot of the little things, such as new elevators, light fixtures and the intricate tile floors.
Despite the underused features, Meyer said there still is a waiting list for rooms. Meyer doesn't know whether the apartments still will be part of HUD.
"It will definitely be residential of some sort," Meyer said, perhaps half hotel and half apartments.
That's what the Aurora was when it first opened, with hotel rooms that rented for $3 to $4 a night, and apartments that came in suites with one to five bedrooms.
Meyer thinks the biggest challenge for his project will be getting approval for the updates.
"I'm sure because it's historic, remodeling will be tough," he said.
This area is town is going to look really nice. With the repavement of N. Main, new sidewalks being added to Dewey St./N.Main. And streetscape-Palm trees were planted last week. With addition to Luther's restaruant being renovated. Also, San Antonio College recenlty purchase Park One.