South Side hopes never ma­te­ri­al­ized

Own­ers of land around Texas A&M de­clared in de­fault over agree­ment

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Business - By Pa­trick Dan­ner STAFF WRITER

It’s been de­scribed as “one of the best de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties Texas has seen in decades.”

Yet the 1,825 acres — on which hopes for a planned mixed-used de­vel­op­ment sur­round­ing Texas A&M Univer­sity on San An­to­nio’s South Side have been pinned — has re­mained rel­a­tively undis­turbed for years.

More than 5,700 res­i­den­tial units and about 3 mil­lion square feet of com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial space have been ap­proved to be built on the land, but all that’s there now are acres of trees, brush and cacti, along with roam­ing cows in the shad­ows of the col­lege.

The lack of ac­tiv­ity led the city of San An­to­nio in Au­gust to de­clare owner Ver­ano Land Group in de­fault un­der a de­vel­op­ment agree­ment. The city said Ver­ano has not kept to a con­struc­tion time­line spelled out in the agree­ment.

“We are un­happy and dis­ap­pointed that this hasn’t fol­lowed the time­line,” said Verónica “Vero” Soto, di­rec­tor of the city’s Neigh­bor­hood and Hous­ing Ser­vices Depart­ment. “We know we need eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in that area, and we know we need the hous­ing in our city.”

For its part, Ver­ano is try­ing to find a buyer for the proper- ty. The de­vel­oper, which has owned the prop­erty for about 12 years, put the land up for sale in 2014 be­fore de­cid­ing against sell­ing. It’s now flipped-flopped again and put it back on the mar­ket.

“We are talk­ing to at least three or four dif­fer­ent groups that have, in our judg­ment, the ca­pa­bil­ity to pro­vide the city with de­vel­op­ment down there,” said Joe DeSi­mone, a Ver­ano gen­eral part­ner, in Hen­der­son­ville, Nev.

“We’re not master-plan de­vel­op­ers in Texas,” DeSi­mone said of the own­ers, who in- clude some in­vestors who made their for­tunes in Nevada’s gam­ing in­dus­try. “We think there’s prob­a­bly bet­terqual­i­fied peo­ple who will add more value to the com­mu­nity.”

Ver­ano is hop­ing to line up a buyer in the first quar­ter of next year. An ask­ing price for the land has not yet been de­ter­mined, DeSi­mone said.

The de­lays are rais­ing longterm con­cerns for col­lege of­fi­cials, who have been anx­iously await­ing hous­ing and shops to help at­tract more stu­dents. The school has about 6,700

Tom Reel / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

A cow stands in the fore­ground on land owned by Ver­ano Land Group Land on San An­to­nio’s South Side.

Cour­tesy photo

The lack of com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment around Texas A&M-San An­to­nio is a point of frus­tra­tion for the col­lege, said Bill Spin­dle, its vice pres­i­dent for busi­ness af­fairs.

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