Recommendation #1Catalyze the development of additional housing, retail, entertainment, and recreational uses within designated mixed-use Focus Areas to attract residents, businesses, workers and visitors to the Regional Center.
The Regional Center is forecast to grow by approximately 20,000 jobs from 2010 to 2040. The vast majority of this growth will be driven by the build-out of the Texas A&M University-San Antonio campus and expected supporting industries. However, growth at the TMMTX Plant is likely as the company has announced plans to reinvest in the nearly 15-year old plant in support of expanded product lines.
Recommendation #2Invest in the construction of infrastructure, utility services, and amenities needed to support development of the Vida! San Antonio community, future expansion of the Texas A&M University-San Antonio campus, and efficient operations at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas Plant.
Recommendation #3Attract additional anchor employment uses to the Regional Center to help diversify the economic base.
The Texas A&M-San Antonio Area Regional Center is an emerging employment center on the south side of San Antonio with two primary employers, Texas A&M University-San Antonio and the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas Plant (TMMTX). Employment estimates for these two large employers vary. Secondary data providers estimate there are 2,600 jobs at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas Plant, accounting for 65% to 70% of jobs in the Regional Center. However, other estimates for the Plant are as high as 3,200 jobs and another 4,000 jobs associated with 23 on-site material suppliers affiliated with the plant.
The other major employer, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, has a campus master plan that provides capacity for between 4 million and 10 million gross square feet of development at build-out. The University currently has an enrollment of 6,500 students, with plans to grow to about 10,000 students by 2021 and 12,500 students by 2025. Faculty and staff are currently approximately 600 employees. The majority of jobs in the Texas A&M-San Antonio Area Regional Center pay a higher than average wage. Sixty-five percent of area jobs have earnings greater than $40,000 per year compared to 37% in San Antonio. The area has very little housing within its boundaries and very few people employed in the Regional Center live in the area. Most workers come from relatively close by, with 28% commuting less than 10 miles, and another 58% commuting between 10 and 24 miles. The Texas A&M-San Antonio Area Regional Center has just less than 2 million square feet of industrial space. The 1.5 million square foot Toyota Plant was completed in 2006, and its completion more than quadrupled the area’s industrial inventory. There is no vacant industrial space in the Regional Center and there is no retail or office space currently other than retail and food businesses located within Texas A&M University-San Antonio campus buildings. The Regional Center is forecast to grow by approximately 20,000 jobs from 2010 to 2040. The vast majority of this growth will be driven by the build-out of the Texas A&M University-San Antonio campus and expected supporting industries. However, growth at the TMMTX Plant is likely as the company has announced plans to reinvest in the nearly 15-year old plant in support of expanded product lines.
Economic Challenges to Address
The emerging Texas A&M-San Antonio Area Regional Center has three major challenges to address:
- Diversifying the economic base and real estate market beyond just TMMTX and Texas A&M University-San Antonio to help make the area more resilient to changes within these major employers.
- Determining how to leverage employment opportunities from the TMMTX Plant and the Texas A&M University-San Antonio campus and determine how to incorporate the university’s own research and development programs to catalyze economic development.
- Ensure the area is an attractive place for people to live and, hopefully, work. The ability of the Regional Center to develop a more resilient economic base will necessitate an increase of people living in and around the Regional Center, illustrating that the south side of San Antonio has an attractive and growing workforce to support businesses.
Target industries and economic opportunities were identified for the Texas A&M-San Antonio Area Regional Center to help guide economic development efforts for the area. The target industries and opportunities are meant to help organize the City’s economic geography and provide guidance on the role each Regional Center can play in the City’s overall economic development efforts. They also give direction to the City and its economic partners as to what areas are best suited for certain opportunities when they arise. The target industries and economic opportunities for the Texas A&M-San Antonio Area Regional Center are:
- World-Leading Education District – The anticipated growth of Texas A&M University-San Antonio creates the opportunity to make the Regional Center a major destination for education in the region. Supporting the growth and leveraging the opportunities presented by a major, research-university should be a major priority.
- South Texas Manufacturing Hub – The Toyota Motor Manufacturing Plant is a major economic asset for the City of San Antonio. The land on which the plant is situated houses its suppliers and is not expected to create any significant spin-off industrial employment in the area. However, the qualities of the area that attracted Toyota to this location (including a large campus, proximity to a major metro area, and connectivity to major transportation routes) could also be considered attractive to other manufacturers and industrial businesses. Enhanced transportation connectivity to the area and creation of developable industrial areas can create the opportunity to attract other similar users. Lastly, given the intensity of uses in this area, future single-family residential growth should be limited; thus, further enhancing the attractiveness of the area for more industrial users.
- Live, Work, Play Center – In order to attract more people living in and around the Regional Center, more housing and entertainment options are needed in appropriate locations. Planned growth at the Texas A&M University-San Antonio campus and the development of the Vida! San Antonio community both present opportunities to attract new entertainment and recreation uses to the area. The University plans to make major investments in collegiate sports programs and publicly accessible campus recreational amenities, which can also be leveraged to generate private investment. The Vida! San Antonio community will add almost 3,000 housing units to the area, providing a critical mass of residents to support increased retail and shopping opportunities.
Attributes of a Vibrant Economic Place
Successful economic places have common attributes that help create their success. These attributes build upon traditional attributes of attractive employment locations to create a cohesive strategy for managing these places. Each SA Tomorrow Regional Center is evaluated based on the presence of these attributes.
The Texas A&M-San Antonio Area Regional Center is beginning to develop the attributes that help create successful, vibrant economic places as shown in the assessment of existing and missing attributes below.
- Brand/Identity – The Regional Center has two identities based on the two major employers - a university campus and a major manufacturing plant. Each can be leveraged to further develop economic opportunities in the area. The City’s roles in nurturing these identities are: 1) to support Texas A&M University-San Antonio’s growth and surrounding development; and 2) to help build infrastructure and amenities needed to attract additional manufacturing and research and development uses to the Regional Center.
- Organizations – The Regional Center currently lacks a critical mass of residents and businesses to create cohesive, meaningful partnership organizations. However, the important emerging partnership between the City of San Antonio, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, and SouthStar Communities, the developer of the adjacent Vida! San Antonio property, is crucial to the successful development of the northern half of the Regional Center. Coordinated actions and investments by these three entities will significantly impact the future of the area.
- Anchor Institutions – The Regional Center has two major economic anchors, but additional major, private employers should be targeted to diversify the economic base.
- Urban/Design Planning – The Regional Center is in the initial years of its build-out. Texas A&M University-San Antonio has created a distinctive campus aesthetic and has expressed a desire for a mixed-use area north of campus. The City needs to support the development of this area through use of incentives, public financing tools, and capital investments as long as the development continues the desired urban form originally contemplated for the area.
- Transportation – The Regional Center benefits from its access and proximity to Loop 410 and its connection to other major interstates and highways. Additional investment is needed to extend major arterials/thoroughfares to and through the Regional Center. Enhanced transit service is needed to support the growth of the Texas A&M University-San Antonio campus and the TMMTX Plant, but additional residential and employment density is needed to support investment in transit expansion.
- Investments – The lack of infrastructure improvements in the Regional Center is an impediment to development. The topography and various drainage basins necessitate pumps and lift stations for water and wastewater service to support urban development, which are costly and may be too costly for individual projects to overcome.
- Finance/Incentives –
- The Regional Center has a number of financial and incentive tools in place to support its future growth.
- The Regional Center is largely within the Verano Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ). The Verano TIRZ has been reassigned to SouthStar Communities, the developer of the Vida! San Antonio project.
- The Regional Center is a Tier I Inclusive Growth Area for the City of San Antonio, which provides businesses locating in the area greater access to tax abatement opportunities.
- SA Tomorrow Regional Centers are considered Level 3 Incentive Areas (upon City Council adoption of the corresponding Regional Center Future Land Use Plan) under the Center City Housing Incentive Policy (CCHIP) adopted in January 2019.
- Lastly, the Regional Center is within a federally designated Opportunity Zone that provides capital gains tax deferral and abatement for qualified investments within the area.