After sitting vacant for half a decade, the 1221 Broadway now has signs of life as its first apartment residents began moving in on Friday.

On its opening day, 72 people had signed leases and only five units were left.

The mixed-use project, which has an industrial urban style, will be released in five phases, and the first four are expected to be on line by October, said David Adelman, a principal at Cross & Co., which controls a partnership that owns the property.

The last phase, which will be a commercial front along Broadway, is expected to be completed by February. Those spaces will house the leasing office and could possibly accommodate a restaurant, Adelman added.

No leases have been signed for commercial spaces.

Right now, only studios and one-bedroom apartments are available, with two-bedroom units coming later. There are 33 floor plans, and rent will run between $800 and $2,000 a month.

Once the project is completed, there will be 307 apartment units on four floors. A courtyard pool is now accessible, and later there will be a rooftop pool and lounge and a fitness center for residents.

Each resident also will have a parking space inside a five-level parking garage.

“The idea was to create a more urban style of living,” said Tawanna Stewart, business manager for the property. “It gives people the convenience to live, work and play in the area.”

It was for that reason that Alex Reynolds, 25, made the move downtown. He was renting a room from a friend near the University of Texas at San Antonio campus, but he decided to make the move because the area north of downtown is affordable and lively and it shortened his commute to work.

“I liked the look and feel of the place, and I couldn’t find anything comparable,” the UTSA graduate said. “I wouldn’t be able to afford anything like this, say, in New York City. I’m not expecting everything to come on line all at once, but once it does, it will be great.”

Late last year, the project received a $23.4 million loan to help get the development off the ground again. But until then, the project had seen its share of troubles.

In October 2004, construction stopped when George Geis, the property’s original developer, sued his general contractor over claims that it had been overpaid by more than $2.5 million, according to San Antonio Express-News archives.

When Geis defaulted on a $26.7 million loan, the lender turned over the property to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to insure the note. HUD sold the debt to another company, and Geis sought bankruptcy protection a day before the new owners were set to foreclose.

A four-year legal battle ensued between Geis and the previous developers, Colina Del Rio partnership. By the time the partnership got a clear title, the economy tanked and the building had been stripped, leaving a concrete shell that could be seen from the Interstate 35/Interstate 37 interchange.

For years, the property was an eyesore that loomed over the northern edge of downtown. But with other successful developments nearby such as the Pearl Brewery, Ben Brewer, president of the Downtown Alliance, said that area is primed for a boom.

“It’s going to be transformational from a neighborhood perspective when we have hundreds of residents living in that area,” Brewer said, citing other projects under way at the Pearl such as the Can Plant and Pearl Parkway apartments. “It bodes well for the kind of residential density that we’re interested in seeing take place in and around the downtown area.”

Braving the nearly 100- degree heat, Laura Patton spent her Friday afternoon lugging furniture and boxes into her new place, the first she can call her own. The Alamo City native leased a one-bedroom with a view of the San Antonio Museum of Art and the new Museum Reach of the River Walk. She wasn’t fazed by the bucket trucks, construction workers and rubble still visible from her balcony.

“I’m not bothered by the ongoing construction,” said Patton, 23. “I’m just excited to get out of my parents’ house.”

Although the project is still in its infancy, Adelman said the property will be a catalyst for other developers to build in that area.

“I’m not celebrating just yet. There’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said. “This project was a hold-up for development here. It set back the neighborhood three to four years. But now things can be cut free and happen.

“I feel confident that landowners will start developing to create a great community,” he said.

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