When developer AREA Real Estate acquired an abandoned, unfinished apartment project occupying two city blocks in a less than desirable section of San Antonio, it seemed completing it would be quite a challenge. But with the fresh perspective and keen eyes of the team at Lake|Flato Architects, the blighted project is now a thriving urban compound that’s helped to revitalize the new River North area of town.

“The previous developer had built the structures of solid concrete, which was great,” project architect Todd Wascher says. But the new team stripped it of its Hebel block cladding and reskinned the four-story buildings in sleek stucco and galvanized metal.

Gutting the interiors and redesigning all of the floor plans created open lofts, and cutting huge openings in the walls flooded the formerly dark units with light. The interiors of the 308 apartments are raw and gritty, with exposed sprinklers and duct work. New steel balconies provide outdoor space, even if it’s only 18 inches deep, and add character to the façade.

The vibe appealed to young professionals, who flocked to the project. The amenities include a large parking garage, two swimming pools, and plenty of green courtyard spaces for residents to gather. “Even for a big building, there’s a degree of intimacy,” says Wascher. “It feels like a neighborhood instead of a single entity.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Antonio, TX.