San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

San Antonio developer Darren Casey plans a $63 million retail and housing project on Texas State University's northern edge.

by BRAD ROLLINS

Darren Casey, the San Antonio developer who is investing heavily in San Marcos, wants to build an upscale $63 million development on 13.5 acres across Sessom Drive from Texas State University.

Click to download site plan

With 419 units and a total of 1,001 beds, the as-yet unnamed project would be the latest addition to San Marcos’ apartment boom which shows no signs of slowing. The city council entitled 1,000 units of new apartments last week alone, including another Casey project on the Thorpe Lane site of the old county hospital.

The Sessom Drive project would include more than a token commercial component. Plans call for 20,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space arranged around a 7,000 square feet stained and polished concrete outdoor commons area. The apartments would be spread between two buildings connected by a skybridge spanning the development’s entrance.

Casey and Carter Morris, the real estate broker on the deal, say the Sessom Drive development would be a class above any other on the ground — or on the drawing board — in San Marcos.

“It will be a destination. It will look like no other development in San Marcos. … The rents will probably be the highest in town,” Morris said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission at its regular meeting tonight is scheduled to consider a planned development district to replace the properties’ existing single-family zoning. Ahead of that vote, Morris and ETR Development Consulting has been meeting with neighbors of the five homeowners whose properties are under contract for purchase by Darren Casey Interest Inc.

Under the proposed PDD, Casey will donate 4.5 acres which adjoin other unbuildable hillside lots for the core of new neighborhood park. The plan also calls for closing Loquat Street to prevent residents of the new development from cutting through the Ridgeway/Hillcrest neighborhood.

Enviornmental leaders have already tendered concerns about a large-scale development on a steep hillside overlooking Sessom Creek, which feeds in to the San Marcos River headwaters at Spring Lake.

Morris said Casey has agreed to suggestions from environmentalists that the detention pond and roads be built before any of the buildings to contain runoff during construction. The developer will use three types of silt control to avoid pollution of the creek, Morris said.

Dianne Wassenich, executive director of the San Marcos River Foundation, said recent reconstruction of Sessom Drive and its stormwater runoff facilities caused extensive sedimentation pollution to the river via Sessom Creek as has various Texas State construction projects over the years.

“So we know that it’s really tough to not pour dirt into the river when you do something along that creek. We’re pretty worried about construction there but we’re hopeful this can be worked out and done correctly,” Wassenich said.

Wassenich said she was encouraged by Casey’s commitment to build the site to hold up to 24 hours worth of rainfall from a 100-year flood. She said, “I’m not as concerned about after the project is built as far as pollution goes. I’m more concerned about during the construction.”

The property’s ideal location so near Texas State makes the extra investment for environmental protection worth spending, Morris said. The property is directly across the street Texas State’s $46 million North Campus Housing Complex under construction now.

“It’s probably one of the best locations in the country for a development like this. It’s very hard to acquire 14-plus acres across the street from a major university and Texas State has become a major university,” Morris said. Texas State University’s enrollment hit 34,113 this fall.

Sean Batura contributed reporting for this story.

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28 thoughts on “Upscale ‘destination’ development headed for P&Z vote

  1. Yikes. Do we have the road infrastructure to support a project like this? Bad as it is over there now (I live in that part of town) when the students are here, what would it look like if this outdoor mall/apartment was put in? Also, and hopefully someone can clear this up if it is true or not, from my days of going to Rivendell — how nostalgic does that time seem now, just a decade out — I was told by someone who owned some land over there that at least a good chunk of that wooded area had been gifted to the city some while ago under the condition it not be commercially developed at any time in the future. I was also told by this same person that there had been an attempt to develop it in the past and it had taken some sort of action by the public to stop the development…note: I am openly admitting I do not have the facts here so please do not accuse me of trying to blow smoke into an area that has no fire…this is just what I recalled and I am simply hoping that someone knows more…that being said, as someone wanting to raise my family here until I die I hope this thing is not built for many reasons (trees, environmental impact, & traffic primarily)…

  2. Re: road infrastructure, Sessom/Academy needs a center turn lane. This will exacerbate that problem. Hopefully that improvement is being discussed, but I couldn’t say.

  3. 1000 more beds?? There is no way that Sessom can handle that increase in traffic. I hope that the traffic counters that I see on the road this week are left up for several weeks of heavy student travel. When it’s bad, it can take over half an hour to get from one end of Sessom to the other. The lack of turn lanes coupled with curves and excessive speed, and the lack of a light at Ed Green Street also need to be addressed. (I live behind this proposed project and deal with the traffic several times a day.)

  4. The artist’s rendition looks quaint. Right? But none the less $63mil will talk over any negatives that we write so get used it if you haven’t by now.

  5. Wasnt there an article about the city having only a small percentage of the population living in apartments? I recall the city funding the study and it had something in it about 30 to 40 percent lived in apartments. I guess I cant believe my eyes when I see all these apartments coming up and no single family homes. I am willing to bet that 60 to 70 percent of the population actually live in apartments.

  6. They can’t even fill Sanctuary Lofts. This also has retail space, and it appears zippo small business owners rent space there. One would think it would be full with a huge waiting list!!

    “So we know that it’s really tough to not pour dirt into the river when you do something along that creek. We’re pretty worried about construction there but we’re hopeful this can be worked out and done correctly,” Wassenich said.” Oh, please tell me how this can be done “correctly.” I’m “pretty worried” looking fwd to hearing about space age techniques to protect an ancient river, SACRED to many!! Some of us are concerned about long term pollution, this is EVERYONES River!!

    Just what we need MORE TRAFFIC!!!!

    Best, LMC

  7. As for traffic, I don’t see it being that bad from this new apartment development because students, staff, or faculty will walk to campus during prime traffic hours. It may even improve traffic by taking some commuters off the road and putting them in walkable distance from campus. The intent to make the rent the highest in town doesn’t make a lot of sense though. How are people supposed to afford it?

  8. It may not add a ton of cars to the road during peak hours, although we could both be wrong on that, especially if the rent results in tenants with no affiliation with the university.

    The problem I see, is that it doesn’t take many cars at all, turning left to get in, to exacerbate the traffic problem already seen on that street. A center turn lane would be a huge improvement. The one at LBJ needs to be longer, and there ought to be one from this development, all the way to the garage at Academy and Holland.

    Better traffic flow on Sessom/Academy would also likely reduce the cut-through traffic on Alamo, which has been a growing problem for years, as Sessom/Academy have become more congested.

  9. And let’s not pass over their claim to make this a big commercial project on top of the apartments…and even if they are students, and they are walking to class, they are hardly going to walk to anywhere but there. They will still be driving everywhere else they go. Traffic on Sessoms is already bursting at the seams during certain times of the day (try turning onto LBJ or Aq. Springs at say 5:30 if you have time to kill). I could see this bringing it to a stop. If you live over in that section of town that would suck even worse than it does now. My hunch is that citizen concerns (such as they are when we have such pitiful turnout to trivial exercises like municipal elections) about what happens to their neighborhoods are secondary to developers with deep pockets.

  10. With the University’s propensity to buy all available adjoining land, my concern is that they will buy it and then do whatever they want with it. Since they are a state organization, they are not subject to any of the City requirements and will do whatever they want over there AND take this property off the tax rolls.

    The problem is that TSU is growing and apartments are being built. If the demand is there, more will be built as TSU grows. Folks are sick of apartments being built away from campus in neighborhoods so what is the alternative? This site is adjoins the campus and at least achieves that goal and CAN encourage more pedestrian and bicycle traffic as opposed to having a complex on the other side of town which certainly WILL increase traffic.

    I wonder why there is no discussion to widen Sessoms since it is such an important thoroughfare for the university.

  11. There have been discussions re: widening Sessom. The problems, as I recall, are that a) it is difficult/impossible to get the ROW from the university side of the road and/because b) the university *wants* traffic around campus to move slowly.

    This info came from city employees/officials, so I would not be surprised to hear that the university has an entirely different take on it, with the truth being in the middle, somewhere.

    There are quite a few examples of the city and university being unable to work together, in that little stretch of road.

  12. I am not opposed to development; I fully recognize what is happening here in San Marcos, like it or not. And I am not opposed to apartments over here either. I have no problem with the place allegedly someday going up where Rivendell used to be. But, the scale of this new proposal is completely beyond anything that seems reasonable for that area, given how stupidly congested it is already, not to mention adding 1000 more beds and the equivalent of what sounds like a boutique mall to boot — that is what they meant by “destination” development, right?

    I find it hard to believe that we will be pushing the town in much of a pedestrian friendly direction when they are including TEN levels of parking garage to the project. I acknowledge some tenants might very well walk to campus (assuming they are students, which might be doubtful if this really is such a pricey development and which opens up the question of whom actually will want to live here if they are not students), but are they going to bike to HEB or downtown to drink/eat? WIll they walk to their friends’ down Post Road? Or, will there be 700-1000 more cars, trucks, etc. driving way too fast in my neighborhood while texting on a much more regular basis endangering my family out taking a walk (and this happen frequently enough already I assure you).

    In short, I am not against development — I think the place going up on top of the old retirement place sounds like a good idea. Build Paso Robles (well, I wish they would not build the golf course, but I know I’m not winning that one under the current paradigm) I would not be opposed to some smaller developments going into that place they are talking about developing over here either. But, their own plans call for a “destination shopping” center and 1000 more beds, which, taking them at their word, means likely at least 1000 more cars on an already choked road on a near daily basis, whether they walk to school or not. I simply do not think that this is the place for such a large undertaking. And this doesn’t even begin to touch on their “hope” that they can pull this off without messing up the river, which is a whole other slap upside the head on its own merit…

  13. The winning point here is lack of infrastructure. Sessoms is clogged without hope of expansion. San Marcos infrastructure in general is poor. Why add an eyesore that will increase congestion? This does not offer enough benefits to be worth the cost of added congestion, not to mention the environmental costs.

  14. We must protect Sessoms Creek and, in turn, our river. This property would make for a wonderful natural area, parkland, or preserve. We also must protect our single family, low density neighborhoods in San Marcos. The zoning in this area needs to stay single family- more mixed use and multifamily zoning is not needed. Its my understanding that 75% of San Marcos is already apartments. Regardless of if you agree or disagree, please send an e-mail stating your opinion to the Planning & Zoning Commission planning_info@sanmarcostx.gov or attend the next P&Z meeting on December 13 and speak your mind.

  15. More of San Marcos being gobbled up by the university and developers. What’s left of the charm that has been San Marcos is beginning to fade even faster. When I’ve traveled around town and seen so many apartment complexes covering what was once green space and so much traffic clogging the roadways I lament at the prospect of another huge development. When will the citizens say “Enough is enough!”?

    I remember several years ago protesting the building of the physics and art complex over 2 pristine water wells. The university almost got away with it, but the cat was out of the bag, and we the citizens protested and stopped it…momentarily. After 3 years in Austin I came back to town to find the tap water smelled strongly of chlorine. I began asking friends what happened. Well, it seems the university did an end-run around the citizens, and claimed that somehow those 2 spring water wells had been damaged beyond repair, and were therefore unusable (therefore we were now drinking nasty Canyon Lake water). Hmmm…. seems a bit suspicious. There had been talk that the reason for building on that particular site was that the physics building would have a clean room for microchip processing, and if that were the case they would require large quantities of purified water. Whether this was simply a rumor or the truth the point is the university got what they wanted, and the townspeople got the shaft.

    So, I am extremely suspicious of developers and anything built near the university. These folks have the 1% mentality.

  16. I will definitely be at the Dec. 13 meeting. I’m all for new development but that area would be horrible for this unless he’s willing to make some serious infrastructure investments that would supplement city costs. Casey already has one abandoned site and project in front of the admissions building on campus. That’s looked horrible for years. I would hate to see that on 14 acres! He needs to work on finishing, or should I say starting, the Commons project first before moving on to much grander plans.

  17. 1st thing… The next economic bubble to burst many have said is the “student loan” bubble. What happens when this happens and the school looses its money tree? The school will not longer be bustling, or at the least will not be growing. What happens if this burst happens soon, will we be left with a shell of a building? Intel in Austin anyone? Or regardless have you seen an empty commercial developments…creepy!!! If students don’t have money, stores won’t pay for spots to sell to moneyless students……

    2nd thing… Apartments and KB (or any) cookie cutter cheap housing developments age like milk. Craft style, well built housing developments age like fine wine. Look at the city of Kyle’s housing compared to San Antonio St or Belvin St. I imagine this will be the Thorpe lane of the 2010’s, look at that $#$@*& hole now, lets build strip centers and apartments it’ll be great!!!! And guess where the developer will be, NOT HERE, but living in there own little craft style home! Don’t walk to our neighborhood to take a dump and leave it for us to pick up later, just take it in San Antonio…

    There are fields upon fields east of the highway and southwest of the highway, old farm land, already been cleared, reuse it for this kind of @#$@#$# would be perfect. Even though already addressed…the most important thing THE RIVER….come on now…

  18. Remember these conversations in the future.
    If this development is not
    tweaked to be able to proceed then in not to many years TSU will obtain it and there will be NO citizen input.
    So play nice everyone and understand there is a willing developer that probably could slow down and hit some kind of middle ground that may work for San Marcos.
    Either that or as history of the University in San Marcos has been written, they will have the final say.

  19. City of San Marcos City Council has stated that one of their top goals is to support the Middle Class. If this is the case, they need to stop approving so many apartments next to single family housing. The corner of Ranch Road 12 and Craddock is an eyesore and the students haven’t yet arrived and trashed the apartments. The apartments approved for Bishop and Franklin will also be disruptive. The ones on Holland – really should not happen. WIth so many of the city council living in Willow Creek, it is great that they are surrounding their development with parkland – but what about the rest of us trying to live a middle class life in a single family house that is not in Willow Creek? People looking to work at the businesses in San Marcos are going to live in New Braunfels or Kyle and commute if they can’t find a single family neighborhood to live in. Let’s enforce the laws that we have about unrelated people in single family, let’s put apartments in areas that can accomodate the traffic and the noise and most of all – let’s protect the neighborhoods we have.

  20. Well written! The time has come to engage the realtor controlled city government and put people in office that are not part of the “fast track rubber stamp machine ” that is ccurrently destroying our beautiful shining city on the hill! Raise your voices, each and every soul, and effect positive change before our jewel is raped to death! Jaimy L. Breihan

  21. LP- Bad scare tactic…Why should the citizens of San Marcos have to settle for the lesser of two evils?

    Plus , I don’t think TSU would take on the project at the risk of losing their (ridiculous & ironic) “Tree Planting College of the Year” plaque.LOL

  22. The Angels Of San Marcos, Texas : Nature, Wildlife and Educational Preserve will aquire these lands as the owners are ready to sell. The developers hands must be removed from the process first, BY STOPPING THE RE-ZONING ON 12-13-2011. Simple plan (1) Stop Darrin Casey, remove his hands from this canyon through the political process, up to and including injunctions, potentially against a flawed city government as well.(2) Aquire the lands and place into a permanent preserve for the next 10,000 years, although I doubt that mankind will survive themselves for that long. http://www.protectsmtx.org Jaimy L. Breihan

  23. PS- TSU-SM, and the texas University system have no plans ( 5 year plan ) to cross Sessom Dr, contrary to popular, realtor driven scare tactics, etc. We together asw many can effect positive change for our city, and save it before it all sold to greedy rapist realtors, etc. Engage in the political process, 12-13-2011, MAKE YOUR VOICES COUNT!!! http://WWW.PROTECTSMTX.ORG jlb

  24. Where was Mr. John Thomaides for the debate on Thursday to discuss important issues surrounding development?

    I for one was pleased to see Mr. NIchols step up and speak on this issue. We are even more convinced he will make the ethical decisions facing our community after that LIVE interview, which was supposed to be a debate.

    Transparency is also key, and it is to bad Mr. Thomaides did not practice what he purports.

  25. Really? You have to be kidding, this is ludicrous. City counsel and Mayor Guerrero himself have to remember the meetings about the Retreat project at RR12 & Craddock. After passing that atrocious project, Mayor Guerrero said something to this effect; the city and city counsel have to look long and hard at the amount of apartments being approved and to slow down, even put a moratorium on the building of apartments. Has he and the city counsel forgotten this already or are they just going to back-pedal and not adhere to their own words?

    San Marcos is not going to be a city for single families to live anymore, it is turning into one big, huge, ugly apartment complex.
    Why do greedy developers & city counsel members feel the need to crush the established, quaint, family oriented neighborhoods?

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