CONVERSE — A planned 51-acre, mixed-used development will take root next to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph under an initiative spearheaded by Bexar County Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Calvert.
The genesis for what is being called Santé 51 — a French word for health — began during the time Calvert hit the campaign trail, when voters in northeast Bexar County told him they needed more economic development.
“They said … they felt there was no (county) presence … even though the northeast area is twice the population of other parts of the precinct,” Calvert said. “Plus, there wasn’t a University Health (System) clinic within 11-14 miles of the area.”
Efforts to revitalize the site began in 2015 when the county purchased 51 acres on Loop 1604 and Rocket Lane near the air base.
Construction at the site already underway for a new, $8 million Bexar County Sheriff’s Office substation should be completed within the next few months, Calvert said.
A one-stop shop for Precinct 4 services, such as a justice of the peace court and a wing for the tax assessor-collector, will be consolidated into the office space.
In addition, long-term plans call for mixed-use development including restaurants, retail shops, a hotel and a hospital to occupy the land.
In August, Bexar County commissioners voted to seek requests for proposals to develop the site under the project name Santé 51. Utilizing a public-private partnership, the county would sell parts of the land to developers.
Several businesses have expressed interest in building there, Calvert said.
“We will put out a request for qualifications and a request for proposals within the next six months,” he said.
The proposed project falls in line with a lengthy JBSA-Randolph Land Use Study adopted in 2015 by the military installation, surrounding cities and Bexar and Guadalupe counties.
Under the tenets of the accord, base and government officials agreed to coordinate efforts to foster community growth while maintaining successful air flights and related operations at JBSA-Randolph.
The project would honor height, noise and lighting restrictions around the base, potential factors affecting military functions.
As long as those stipulations are followed, there shouldn’t be an adverse impact on Randolph, officials said.
“The Santé 51 development proposed by Bexar County will not impact the flying operations at Randolph AFB,” said Mayor Al Suarez, an Air Force veteran. “The city of Converse routinely coordinates all development (near the boundaries) with JBSA- Randolph and follows all guidelines of the approved Joint Land Use Study.”
Santé 51 critics argue it won’t be commercially profitable due to its proximity to other shopping centers such as The Forum at Olympia Parkway, which straddles Live Oak and Selma.
Government officials dispute the claim, noting a 2017 economic analysis that outlined $2.2 billion worth of unmet consumer needs in Converse, including furniture and clothing stores, motor-vehicle dealers and restaurants.
“Santé 51 is a vital project for Converse because of the explosive growth in the (Loop) 1604 corridor and surrounding communities,” Suarez said. “The city of Converse has expanded its population from the last census in 2010 of 18,198 (residents) to 25,000 today. In addition, we are building seven housing subdivisions and expanding our borders through annexation and municipal boundary adjustments with the city of San Antonio.”
Calvert estimates construction taking place on the Santé 51 project within the next 18-24 months.