City officials want to acquire a new 311-acre park on the North Side, with the $40 million to $45 million purchase price benefiting local medical research, Mayor Phil Hardberger told the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board on Tuesday.
Called a win-win situation by city and civic officials, the deal would add badly needed parkland to the densely populated North Side off Lockhill-Selma Road while adding the Voelcker family name to the city's honor roll of charitable contributors.
"It is the only property of its size in San Antonio left undeveloped that is this close to downtown," Mayor Phil Hardberger told the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board on Tuesday. "We have to move, and I think we have to move quickly on it. This is the chance of a lifetime, it won't come again."
The $40 million-plus acquisition by the city, would halt the complete development of the area between Lockhill-Selma and Blanco roads.
The city's plan is to move forward with the purchase of 107 acres bordered by Wurzbach Parkway, Blanco Road and Voelcker Lane, which could cost around $15 million, Sculley said.
The remaining 204-acre tract would be bought with money from a proposed $550 million bond package that could before voters as soon as May 2007.
The details of the bond referendum, which will include streets and drainage improvements, have not been ironed out. Sculley said it will not require a tax rate increase. Hardberger said the 204-acre tract would be kept off the market pending voter approval of the bond package.
"A park like this will have such instant acceptability," Hardberger said.
The plan reflects city government's reawakened desire for parkland, said Henry Flores, a political scientist and dean of graduate studies at St. Mary's University.
"What we've done in the past is just have a very pro-development posture," Flores said.
The drive for development, he said, started in earnest under former Mayor Walter McAllister and later gained speed under former Mayor Henry Cisneros. Setting aside parkland was not a top priority.
As a result, the far North Side in particular is well below the national average for parkland in large cities.
The city's Parks and Recreation Department identified 7.9 acres of park per 1,000 residents in this area; San Antonio's overall average is 14.4 acres per 1,000 residents. The national average is 16 per 1,000.
Flores credits former Mayor Ed Garza, an urban planner, with starting the wheels of change.
"It was no longer development for development's sake," Flores said. "It's been more carefully planned."
About Hardberger, he noted: "This seems to fit in with how he thinks about these issues."