Tensions over development have long been a source of both conflict and pride in America’s fastest-growing city. As Texas State’s student population increases every year, so does the dilemma of balancing development and economic opportunity with the area’s fragile environment and small town charm.
The newest threat, as some residents see it, to disrupting this balance is a proposed nine-story mixed-use development that some say will determine the future of development in San Marcos. As Planning and Zoning commissioners near a decision on the project, the editorial board hopes city officials and developers alike will take a long-overlooked property into consideration for future development—Springtown Shopping Center.
The largely vacant strip mall located off Thorpe Lane and Springtown Way is practically begging to be developed. According to an Oct. 4, 2012 University Star article, Target, Best Buy, Bealls and J.C. Penney relocated in 2009 from the 30-acre shopping area to other parts of the city.
Currently, only Bath and Body Works, Twin Liquors and RadioShack have storefronts in the center. The land, located in a prime location close to the university and downtown, is not being utilized to its full potential.
The attention given to the community’s outcries, no matter how valid they are, over areas like Sessom Creek and the Buie Tract often obscures positive efforts to develop San Marcos. The Planning and Zoning Commission needs to put more effort into finding ways for San Marcos to grow—not stagnate. That being said, developing Springtown would allow for responsible growth that would greatly benefit the local economy and quality of life in San Marcos.
According to the same Star article, a 2009 renovation proposal for Springtown showed the area has the potential to create 451 jobs, $295 million in salaries, $1.7 million in additional taxable sales for the city and $51.74 million in local tax rolls. Since city officials are in possession of these figures, it is unclear why little has been done to attract developers to the area. The proposed Hutchison Mixed Use Redevelopment project by Carson Properties, which is the current talk of the town, would be a great fit for Springtown.
It has been shown time and time again that San Marcos residents and city officials will fight tooth and nail to stop apartment developers from building on areas that are environmentally sensitive or jeopardize local businesses. According to a Jan. 15 University Star article, the proposed development would sit on land currently occupied by Triple Crown, Eskimo Hut and Cedars Mediterranean Restaurant.
It would be wise for developers to look to Springtown as a potential location for new properties rather than tear down local icons and attract the wrath of the San Marcos torch and pitchfork crowd. Springtown is an eyesore no one would be sad to see go, and city officials would likely welcome a mixed-use development in the location with open arms.
Developers typically drop their plans for a project if Planning and Zoning commissioners do not give them approval to build on the site they have requested. If the Hutchison Mixed Use Redevelopment for some reason does not receive approval, Carson Properties should consider Springtown as a second option.
A strong anchor store such as Costco or Kohl’s would attract smaller businesses to Springtown, potentially repopulating the dead strip mall. Unfortunately, this does not look like a possibility anytime in the near future. The remaining businesses in the shopping center should be given tax incentives to relocate so Springtown can be leveled to make way for something like the Hutchison Mixed Use Redevelopment.
As Texas State grows, more apartment complexes will need to be built to house students. San Marcos is becoming an increasingly attractive city to live, work and go to school in, and developers have taken notice. This is a fact the community has to live with, like it or not, so it would make sense to start looking for agreeable locations to develop. As residents and developers battle over controversial downtown areas, Springtown waits only a short distance away.