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

An architect’s rendering of proposed Concho Commons development. The side with the swimming pool faces south, toward downtown San Marcos.

Updated:

3:45 p.m. OCT. 24: San Antonio developer Darren Casey told the San Marcos Mercury that he hopes to complete design and permitting processes in time to start construction on his Concho Commons high-rise by April 2013. The 13-floor building will have retail on the first two floors and 310 apartment units on the upper floors.

“We’ve tried for several years to match up the market with the demand and the site and now we feel like we maybe got the timing right. We think the university and the city are ready for a high-end luxury student housing option for students and we’re going to deliver a landmark project in the heart of San Marcos,” Casey said.

Because the warrant allowing added building height does not require city council approval, Casey said the Concho Commons project is fully entitled with last night’s planning and zoning commission vote.

“We’ve got the entitlement and we’re off to the races,” he said. Construction will take about 22 months with a projected completion date of late spring 2015, Casey said.


Earlier:

by BRAD ROLLINS

The planning and zoning commission unanimously approved a measure Tuesday evening that allows developer Darren Casey to add eight additional floors to his anticipated Concho Commons development between Texas State University and downtown San Marcos.


View San Marcos Development Map in a larger map

Standing at 128 feet from street level, the resulting 13-floor mid-rise would be among San Marcos’ tallest buildings. The building site lies in the transition area between campus and downtown where city planners want to see denser, urban-style development as an antidote to congested streets and suburban sprawl.

Casey’s plans include 17,000 square feet of  retail space on the bottom two floors and 584 beds between 310 apartment units on the upper 10 floors. (A basement would bring the total number of floors to 13.) He would build 588 parking spaces, more than the 480 required under city codes.

“I look at this as a wonderful entrance way into that part of the university,” planning commissioner Bucky Couch said.

The 1.7 acre tract between Guadalupe Street and LBJ Drive has been the subject of “Coming Soon” signs for more than a decade. After suing the city over density restrictions, property owner W.C. Carson won a settlement in 2003 that allowed construction of a 142-unit, six-floor residential development.

In 2008, Casey and Carson won city council approval for a much smaller two-floor, 37,000 square foot retail center. A year later, the council and planning and zoning commission amended the plan to allow for three additional floors of residential.

For part of the last decade, city law restricted buildings in the central business district to less than 45 feet or four floors, whichever was lower. That measure expired in 2008. The downtown SmartCode adopted in 2011 restricts buildings to no more than five stories but establishes a process for real estate developers to seek a “warrant” to build higher if it achieves planning objectives.

On that count, Casey’s enlarged plans for Concho Commons passes muster, city planner Emily Koller said, recommending approval with the condition that Casey follow changes to the SmartCode architectural standards that have been approved by P&Z but not yet enacted by the city council.

Those conditions would have required, among other things, redesigning the building to provide larger setbacks of the upper floors from the building footprint, a practice intended to trim the building’s “massing,” or general shape. The pending changes add requirements intended to avoid the canyon effect created by the sheer walls of towering buildings.

“Staff is generally concerned about the massing of this project. The scale is so much larger than anything we’ve seen downtown,” Koller said.

Answering a question from planning commissioner Travis Kelsey, Casey’s architect, Dan Alexander, said the additional requirements would cut 92 beds from the plan, 22 percent of the proposed total.

“In our world, that’s not supportable,” Alexander said.

Planning commissioner Carter Morris moved that the commission issue Casey the warrant without the conditions recommended by city staff. During their deliberations, several commissioners said they were reluctant to apply design standards that are not yet part of city ordinances.

“By putting in the conditions, we are being asked to enforce a law that has not been approved yet, a regulation that is not a regulation yet,” said commissioner Curtis Seebeck.

Currently valued by the Hays Central Appraisal District at $635,980, the Concho Commons tract yields less than $15,000 a year in city, county and school district taxes. The taxes on the completed project would amount to $265,000 in city, $212,500 in county and $675,000 in San Marcos CISD tax revenue, said Ed Theriot, a consultant working for Casey.

“It will put $600,000 dollars into our school system and place very little demand on our schools because most of [the residents] are going to be college students and aren’t going to have kids,” planning commissioner Chris Wood said.

If Concho Commons tops out at 128 feet, it will be the second tallest privately owned building in San Marcos, coming in behind Embassy Suites, which is 10 floors and 135 feet.

The J.C. Kellum administration building at Texas State is listed as the tallest in San Marcos at 11 floors and 150 feet, according to construction research firm Emporis. Also making the top five list are Jackson Hall (12 floors, 140 feet) and The Tower residence hall (9 floors, 115 feet). The two towers of the recently opened North Campus Housing Complex on Sessom Drive are both 88 feet with six floors.

When land elevation is taken into account, Concho Commons will stand a little taller than J.C. Kellum (740 feet above sea level compared to 728), Theriot said. It would sit lower on the skyline than either Alkek Library (805 feet) the new General Academic Building (765 feet), he said.

Read and Download

Concho Commons development | San Marcos, Texas


CLARIFICATION: The paragraph discussing the architectural concept of “massing” was reworked to be clearer and more accurate.

Email Email | Print Print

--

27 thoughts on “P&Z vote could give rise to 13-floor building near campus

  1. What the? I am sorry but the public should be made aware of these things before P & Z votes on them. Why are we getting this after the fact? You all screwed up the Church with Sanctuary apartments (by the way with windows that do not even open on the first floor!). Now you all are going to screw up the view? Pft.

  2. Dense development away from single family neighborhoods, within walking distance of campus AND downtown, with MORE parking than required (recall his previous plan was approved with less than required, I believe) – I like it.

  3. I like where people can actually ride their bikes on a sidewalk and would like an improvement with public transportation. So San Marcos’ most stand out building will be an apartment complex? No thank you. Oh wait I actually see them approving an even bigger parking garage.

  4. I like where people can actually ride their bikes on a sidewalk and would like an improvement with public transportation. So San Marcos’ most stand out building will be an apartment complex? No thank you.

  5. They are finally proposing to build something where it actually makes sense for all the right reasons! The height is a bit much, but the location could not be more perfect. JLB :-)

  6. This is the right place for something like this. And as far as the size goes it would seemingly fit in quite well with the giant campus buildings already in the area. Just about anything would be better than the zombie lot there already. I’m guessing that all the businesses within very easy walking distance will be quite happy with the new customer base as well.

  7. Great location. If the developers choose materials that blend with the university structures, it won’t look like a giant apartment eyesore. It could blend very nicely.

  8. Perfect! Finally something that is sensible. This should be approved no question although I am sure the moratorium movement will have something say as always.

  9. Actually I’m guessing the so-called moratorium movement (I suppose you mean the oh-so-radical-they-might-very-well-be-Communists-let’s-slow-down-with-zoning-changes-until-we-have-time-to-actually-assess-where-we-stand-until-we-figure-out-where-we-want-to-go-movement) will have little to say about this as it is not located next to the river or in an established neighborhood. You make the argument yourself alongside your snide comment Jamar (nothing wrong with snide comments, of course). “Finally something that is sensible.”

  10. I’m glad something is being done with that lot, and it’s a good place for this project. The drawings already look about a million times better than the Women’s Tower. I hope they keep the red roof, and that they have more success than sanctuary at renting out retail space.

  11. And where are they going to build the 588 parking spaces? the whole site is 1.7 acres, not enough for the plans which include 17,000 square feet of retail space and 584 beds between 310 apartment units.

  12. Great location for student apartments. The right retail will work – Urban Outfitters, American Apparel, Barnes & Noble, Pei Wei, Tarka and Mellow Mushroom – stuff students are looking for.

  13. Re: Keith

    I don’t think my comments regarding the “movement” were snide. There’s nothing wring with a movement…..and communists? Really? Those are your words.

  14. Jim: I suspect the parking spaces will be in the basement – parking garage style.

  15. No offense intended Jamar. As far as snide goes it sounded like you were saying that this idea is sensible but that those moratorium folks will be against it simply because they that’s what they do. That to me sounded like a dig.

    And as per the commie reference it was hyperbole aimed at what I have seen by many on these pages as an unfair and simplistic labeling of the moratorium supporters as little more than anti-business no-growth ostriches who think we should deny the inescapable reality that we are no longer a sleepy town with Ralph and the mermaids to entertain us.

    There are nuances to those in support of the moratorium and against the Sessoms development for instance. It seems that many who deny these nuances and simply label us “no-growthers” are akin to the talk radio crowd who dismiss anything they don’t like as liberal and then go and spout off with self-righteous indignation to others who believe the same way they do. And that does not seem to serve much purpose to anyone.

    We are facing many difficult years ahead of us in San Marcos as we cope with growth and determine what kind of town we want to leave our grandkids. Hopefully it will still be an excellent place to raise a family AND/OR go to college or anything in between. We owe the unborn nothing less, right? It would seem important that we learn to talk to each other with as few simplistic characterizations as possible in order to facilitate this process in as collaborative and democratic manner as possible. Sorry if you thought I was attacking you.

  16. We can bicker about the details, but this is exactly where this type of development should go. I don’t think Casey should be able to build whatever he wants, but the city needs to work with him on coming up with a reasonable plan. Keep the architecture complimentary to the new campus buildings. Make sure there is enough parking for future residents of the project, as well as staff at the retail shops. The location has been wasted space for too long.

  17. Based on prior development proposals and my opposition of each poorly-thought of location, I would be assigned to the “no-growther” group. However, this is a good place for this kind of development. Thank you Keith for your statement and the recognition that not all people that signed the moratorium are against growth in general.

    This particular development and location don’t pit “multi-family” against “single family”. Unfortunately, in the past five years, “multi-family” has taken precedence over everyone else, leaving many homeowners disenfranchised with the whole process.

  18. I do not disagree with the “no-growthers” all of the time and I don’t mean to infer that I do. This town and its residents need to realize that we will continue to grow, and as there is no significant purchasing power or demand for single family development, there will continue to be a need for more apartments and for more student living. More developments such as The Retreat, Aspen Heights,and this Casey development make sense and they are the future of San Marcos whether we like it or not.

  19. Sadly, with the demographics of this town, a big chunk of San Martians can’t qualify for a mortgage so apartments are a good option. So you’ve got those guys and then you’ve got the students and that makes a huge demand for apartments. It’s easy to automatically equate apartments with students but if you drive down Aquarena east of 35 you’ll see a lot of young families around those apt complexes. I suppose if enough apartments are constructed close to campus, and those apartments have student oriented amenities we could further reduce the number of student commuters. In that way, apartments close to campus are a good thing. So, all that to say this is a good location. So is the old Wuest’s/Justice Center (it was Wuest’s wasn’t it Winchester?) Or maybe it was HEB. There are lots of underutilized properties downtown that would make good student apartments.

  20. HEB, second location.

    Sign me up for the ‘this is a good idea’ group.

  21. Personally, we still have the problem with too many apartments and no growth in the residential sector. Why not high rise residences for professionals or others that want to invest in a home here in San Marcos?
    Why not try to cultivate San Marcos as not only a place for students, but a place for non students as well?

  22. If we have too many apartments then why do developers keep gambling millions of dollars to build more?

  23. San Marcos does not have too many apartments. More multi-family dwellings should and will be built. Growth cannot be stopped, nor should it. The real problem is that San Marcos has too few single-family neighborhoods in the city core, and too few leaders with the vision to protect them. Enforcing and maintaining neighborhood zoning codes is not a radical idea. On the face of it, Casey’s new plan for Concho Commons seems appropriate, and contrary to what the editor of this newspaper would like readers to believe, homeowners in our core neighborhoods are not “anti-growth.”

  24. @ Patrick, yes! Let’s diversify residential and multi-student housing(I think that this is a better term for apartments). If we want to spread our economic development seeds and incentives, let’s make a place for professionals and families to want to live! We have to live here after all, not out of town developers or fly by night city planners!

  25. Ok, “too many apartments” needs to be refined to planned apartments in areas other than on the north side or encroaching into neighborhoods. The city planning department needs to not only give Texas State what they need, but also the other inhabitants. They are proposing to create more of a traffic nightmare on Sessoms. Has anyone driven by the long line turning right on Sessoms from ?
    @SM, since you posed the rhetorical question, I say that your statements logic is flawed. So, if less mortgages are available for residences, then we buy more of what we don’t need? We need a balance of multi-student and residential to stay a sane town or risk turning into a rental slum that needs rebuilding. Hm, lets just save the bad planning and do the right job of planning in the first place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>