The Jeffersonian: Politicks, Sports, and Culture

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Where To Put The A&M Campus

There's been alot of discussion about where on the South Side to put the new Texas A&M campus, but it looks like the numbers support the site preferred by the A&M system:

Despite the prospect of free land, a report delivered to the City Council says putting a Texas A&M campus at Brooks City-Base would cost $12.7 million more than it would at the site already targeted by city and A&M officials.

"I'm a little surprised," said Mayor Phil Hardberger, who ordered the evaluation of city-owned Brooks as a potential campus location last month. "I would have thought it would be cheaper to build on free land at Brooks."

"If the figures stand up," he added, "it certainly gives credence to the city's preferred site."

The report, issued by Assistant City Manager Jelynne Burley, put the overall cost of locating the planned campus at Brooks at $48.4 million. That includes $39 million for road construction, $7 million for environmental and real estate costs, $1.5 million for water lines and $850,000 for wastewater infrastructure.

By comparison, locating at the southwest quadrant of South Loop 410 and U.S. 281 — the city's preferred site — would cost $35.7 million, according to the report. That includes $12.6 million to buy out about 100 property owners.

There's some quibbling about whether or not the $48.4 million price tag is actually right, but no one seems to disagree with the $35.7 million cost of the preferred site. Which would mean that the Brooks site would have to have been overvalued by almost $13 million to make it competitive fiscally. Others also like the preferred site because of the opportunity to economically develop a different area of the south side, not just add on to what will be happening over at Brooks.

I'm apt to agree with them. Brooks is already bringing in several new businesses- a DPT laboratories facility and a 550,000 sq. ft. shopping center to name a couple- why not develop another piece of land on the south side and allow for the sort of growth that the north side saw with UTSA and the Medical Center? When you include the new Toyota plant going up nearby, you'd have three major economic development anchors to help spurs growth.

Finally, let me say this- Ed Garza may have been a crappy leader who bungled his way through alot of things, but his balanced growth idea and South Side Initiative is just starting to flesh itself out. Between him and County Judge Nelson Wolff, I don't know if there has been a public official in recent years that has invested as much time and political capital to growing a side of town that often gets overlooked for its more politically potent brethren to the east and west of it.