The SoDA District is expanding from a place to work and play to a place to call home.
The new Quarters on Pecan Street development offers five two-story houses constructed where a dilapidated warehouse with a rusty, corrugated roof once stood on the southwest corner of Pecan and South Second streets.
The residences, some with pops of bright color on the exterior, are a short walk to the Taylor County Courthouse, offices and newer bars and event centers that have opened in renovated buildings in recent years.
“We really feel like we’re creating something that can be unique and add to what’s there,” said developer Lynn Beal.
Sweet downtown home
All five of the 1,840-square-foot houses have the same open-concept design for the first floor and living quarters upstairs.
“We wanted the bedrooms to be private, and this being an urban setting, having them upstairs makes them more private,” said Beal’s wife, Ronnie, who oversaw the floor plans and design.
With no walls separating the living room, kitchen and dining room, the first floor also is conducive to entertaining. The first floor also features a walk-in pantry and half bathroom. Extensive cam lighting and several windows bring lightness to the living space.
Upstairs are three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a laundry room. The master bathroom has a double-sink vanity and tiled shower with inset shelf.
Two of the houses have dark brown kitchen cabinets and white quartz countertops, while the other three have white cabinets and gray quartz countertops. The fixtures and luxury vinyl plank flooring also vary between the two groups.
Amenities include tankless water heaters, energy-efficient windows, custom iron handrails along the stairs, glass back and side entry doors with built-in blinds, kitchen island with sink on one side and bar seating on the other and outfitting for smart home technology to control lights and thermostat via a cellphone app. Natural gas fuels the appliances.
Landscaping is along the front of all five houses, and fencing, gas fire pits and crushed granite ground covering are in the back yards.
The list price for each house is $289,500, Beal said. Inquiries can be messaged at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Developing the residences is a group effort, with financial backing from an out-of-town friend of Beal’s and building by Kyle Paul Construction.
Credit for the project idea goes to SoDA District developer Tim Smith. Beal said he had admired from afar Smith’s advocacy and passion for repurposing shuttered and underutilized buildings in the district south across the railroad tracks from downtown Abilene.
The two men had a chance encounter at a gym, which lead to a meeting about how Beal could become a part of the SoDA transformations, Beal said. During that discussion, Smith suggested the once largely abandoned district needed more living spaces.
Less than a week later, Smith let Beal know that the owners of the warehouse were willing to sell.
“I knew better than to say, ‘Well, let me think about it,’ because there will be plenty of time to think later,” Beal said.
Development is a second venture for the Beals after he retired from the trailer and container business in Coke County.
The couple moved to the Abilene area about 11 years ago.
The Beals planned to flip houses and sought advice on possible rehab projects from family friend Rex Miller, a longtime Abilene home builder. Miller instead told Beal that Abilene needed more development of land for home sites.
“We had never even built a house for us, so it was quite a leap of faith. But the appeal of the land lending itself to creation of something unique and good for Abilene won the day,” Beal said.
The Beals bought a 217-acre track of land within the city limits and partnered with Miller to develop it as Elm Creek at Wylie housing subdivision at 5191 Antilley Road. Amenities planned for the neighborhood about a half-mile west of Wylie High School include a splash pad, swimming pool and hiking trails.
Since the first lots were sold about three years ago, more than a dozen houses with a minimum of 1,800 square feet have been built or are underway.
“That’s where I really got a taste for the developing side and started looking at the downtown and thinking, ‘This would be fun. It’d be creative.’ I like to do things that are a little bit different,” Beal said.
The SoDA warehouse lot was cleared soon after the deal closed in December. Beal talked to people of all ages and backgrounds for feedback in planning the houses, which appealed to many, he said.
But, he also was told by some, “Lynn, you don’t know what you’re up against with this. You know, in that old part of town, nobody’s ever done anything like that. Nobody’s built new housing downtown,” he recalled.
Paul suggested building all five houses at once instead of consecutively so that potential buyers could see how the development fit into the SoDA vibe, Beal said.
As the houses went up, Beal’s phone rang periodically with inquiries about their availability. When the exterior colors were adjusted to add accents of turquoise, yellow, blue and green, the calls increased.
Many were from young professionals, but some from people with children. Others were parents of college students, Beal said.
City officials also were supportive of the infill development, Beal said. Zoning on the property was not as restrictive about setbacks from the street and other provisions that typically apply in residential zoning, he said.
Although the houses are closer together than in a traditional residential neighborhood, they are not townhomes, which has a distinct zoning classification, Beal said.
Powering through COVID-19
Just as some naysayers did not diminish Beal’s enthusiasm for the project, neither did COVID-19.
The houses were in the planning stage in March when state and local mandates closed bars and restaurants and cascaded into the cancelling of public and private events.
After consulting with his partner, Beal decided to forge ahead. It was his way to show support for all the young entrepreneurs who had taken chances on SoDA District ventures and were now facing an uncertain pandemic future, he said.
“It was almost like, ‘Hey, we need something positive. We need to move forward. These young people down here need to see things going up,'” he said. “… We’re all in this together. For me, I’ve been so impressed with Abilene’s sort of ‘stick together’ mentality and the support for everything downtown, north or south.”
Beal’s perspective is based on facing a similar situation as a young business owner in Odessa when the 1982 oil bust happened.
“Instead of working 12 hours a day, you work 16 hours a day, and you just stay with it and keep going,” he recalled about surviving that time. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Or, in the case of the Quarters, a downtown place to call home.
Laura Gutschke is a general assignment reporter and food columnist and manages online content for the Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.
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