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Brooks City Base back in running for UIW med school
May 8, 2014

By Valentino Lucio, San Antonio Express-News

SAN ANTONIO - If the University of the Incarnate Word selects Brooks City Base for its osteopathic medical school, the former Air Force facility would take a couple of steps closer to what it aspired to be for years - a center for health care and the biosciences.

The Brooks Development Authority, which manages development of the 1,300-acre property on the Southeast Side, is meeting regularly with UIW in effort to land the school.

Brooks City Base's chances improved significantly last month after university officials pulled the plug on a downtown location - next to Fox Tech High School - because fundraising for the $50 million project fell short. Building in the center city would have been the most expensive of the three options UIW considered.
Brooks was one of the three.

But while the medical school would be a win for the South Side, further development around Brooks City Base wouldn't hinge on it.

Already a thriving residential and retail corridor, developers and companies continue to invest in the area.

Brooks alone is home to hundreds of residents and dozens of public and private tenants, including DPT Laboratories and Mission Trail Baptist Hospital.

"At the end of the day, we're not just about developing these 1,300 acres, but improving the prosperity of families and households that live in the area surrounding Brooks," said Leo Gomez, president and CEO of the Brooks authority. "So, bringing something like a medical school to the South Side is certainly (progress) toward that mission.

"I consider it among the game-changers that we are expecting. And it's an important one. It's not the exclusive one."

Over the past couple of years, BDA has moved toward mixed-use development - including the construction of apartments - as a critical mass of biomedical firms eluded the authority.

A university official said talks with BDA continue.

Plans are for the medical school to employ about 70 full-time staff and faculty for the roughly 500 students expected to enroll during the first four years. Even though the additional population wouldn't be hugely significant, it would help drive the need for more retail and housing, said Dan Markson, a vice president at NRP Group.

"The school will bring a young, highly educated group to the South Side," Markson said. "And they'll demand goods and services. So I think initially, we'll see more development such as apartments, restaurants and more retail.

"It's not a large population, so the demand is going to be limited. But multifamily and retail development depends on jobs - and these are jobs."

By midsummer, Brooks expects to complete its master plan, focusing on adding more mixed-use projects to the campus. Without providing specifics, Gomez said the authority continues to court tenants and expects more deals to close this year.

"What we have down there is already a magnet," said Kitty Meyers, interim executive director of the South Side Chamber of Commerce. "And the medical school will help to make the magnet stronger. So as more opportunities come south, more people will come to work and live."
The average occupancy rate for multifamily housing around Brooks is about 94 percent - higher than the city's average. Apartment rents are about $1.18 per square foot, on par with the city's average, according to data from Austin Investor Interests, a multifamily research firm.

The prospect of more development, combined with retail amenities already there, has caught the eye of investors.

Miami-based Pensam Capital, for example, recently closed on a $39.5 million deal for the 300-unit Landings at Brooks City Base, the sole apartment community on the campus.

"We felt it was a great core asset," said Michael Stein, a partner with the investment firm. "It's in a master-planned community where there's new industry coming to the area. We think it's early days for that area of San Antonio."

The university is expected to make a decision on the location later this month. Another potential site is a UIW facility near the South Texas Medical Center.

To win preliminary accreditation, UIW needs to submit plans for its school to the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation this month.

The first class of medical school students is expected to enroll by August 2016.

"The opportunities are here on the South Side," the South Side chamber's Meyers said. "The school is just going to help bring more and more opportunities. We keep adding these pieces to the puzzle, and you're going to get a mosaic that's filled in."

 

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