by BRAD ROLLINS
Editor and Publisher
A developer has cut retail and office space and added three floors of residential units to the Concho Commons building planned for a prime commercial tract situated between Texas State University and downtown San Marcos.
The amendment sailed through San Marcos City Council last week, passing unanimously. City staff recommended approval after initially recommending denial when it went before the Planning and Zoning Commission in November where Casey agreed to a parking management plan and increased bike racks to encourage bicycle traffic. The planning and zoning commission approved the changes 7-1.
The relatively easy passage contrasts with years of litigation and negotiation over the 1.7-acre lot bound by Guadalupe Street and LBJ Drive on the campus’s southern edge. By way of a lawsuit settlement, landowner W.C. Carson and the city in 2003 agreed to a 142-unit, six-floor residential building, but by the time the project resurfaced before city council in September last year, plans did not include any residential units at all. A residential component emerged as important to securing financing, said Greg Gibson, Casey’s development services director.
Residential “really is the highest and best use for that property,” Gibson said. In addition, he said, falling construction prices make possible the excavation and added building cost of a two-level parking garage necessary to accommodate residents.
The tract is a short hop across Concho Street from the site of the university’s forthcoming 130,000 square foot Undergraduate Academic Building, an addition that both increases Concho Common’s prominence and intensifies concerns over parking for its patrons.
“I’ve said it before and I will say it again: What the developers of this project want to do is to maximize their profit at the expense of everybody else,” said attorney Kyle Maysel, who has chaired the Downtown Parking Advisory Board for eight years. “… All I can say is that everybody wants a project to be built there but they want it to be built responsibly. They want enough parking there so nobody else has to absorb the deficit.
The new plan requires construction of 151 parking spaces, 76 of which would be dedicated to the commercial lease spaces and 75 of which would be designated for residents. That’s 42 more than the retail-only configuration but still 54 fewer than the land development code would normally require for general commercial and multi-family residential projects. (Those figures do not include 14 on-street parking spaces that will be built but which don’t count toward meeting municipal requirements.)
Representing Casey, Ed Theriot of ETR Development Consulting pointed out the amended plan represents a parking space for every 360 square feet of commercial, an improvement over the previous 1:400 ratio. On the residential side, the amended plan amounts to one space for every bed which he said was better than the one to 0.85 ratio previously approved for the Vintage San Marcos residential project a few blocks away.
During questioning by city council member Kim Porterfield, City Manager Rick Menchaca said the city’s current codes tend to require too much parking as evidenced by excessive vacant parking in large residential projects like nearby Sanctuary Lofts.
Not knowing what kind of tenants will fill Concho Commons makes determining optimum parking difficult, Planning Director Matthew Lewis said, but in general “current codes are over-parked. We’re analyzing that to make sure it meets the community needs.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story originally said the planned development district amendment passed 6-1. It passed unanimously.
» City staff analysis of parking [pdf]