CONVERSE — A new City Hall is moving quickly toward completion, while three other community projects are taking shape at almost the same time to keep pace with expansion.
As the city continues to grow, a rebuilt municipal complex, anchored by a City Hall featuring consolidated services, is needed for the convenience of residents, officials said. Meanwhile, a fire station, animal-control facility and enlarged public library are being constructed or renovated in town, too.
A land swap last year with San Antonio tripled the size of Converse and added a subdivision. The township’s population is projected to increase from 22,000 to more than 70,000 by 2040.
“With the new city municipal complex, we are putting all the services together,” said Mayor Al Suarez.
Converse officials and other dignitaries broke ground on the replacement City Hall in March 2017. In addition, the days and weeks before and after saw the burg initiate work on its first animal shelter, plus commissioned projects doubling the size of the public library, and the latest fire station.
“The new City Hall is on schedule (and) will be finished by Oct. 31,” Suarez said. “It’s about 40 percent complete. We did have some foundation problems at the site, lost about two months, but we are on schedule now.”
At $2.5 million, Suarez said the two-story, 10,800-square-foot facility would be a one-stop shop for residents with Municipal Court, the Police Department, as well as other city services and administrative offices all together.
The under-construction structure is just one endeavor funded by a $20 million bond passed by voters in 2015. Work is also underway on the modernized firehouse ($3 million), animal-care center ($2 million), parks improvements ($1 million) and library expansion ($800,000).
The 14,900-square-foot fire station, with an estimated completion by Nov. 30, will be situated along Toepperwein Road, replacing the old building near Gibbs Sprawl Road.
Due to the size and density of the required slab for the five-bay construct, concrete had to be poured during a two-day period in April.
“When you are building a fire station, you have huge trucks and you need special foundations so they don’t crack,” Suarez said.
Construction is also ongoing at the city’s 7.5-acre animal-care campus at FM 1516 and Upper Seguin Road. Near Judson Independent School District’s Rutledge Stadium, its completion date is January 2019.
The new 9,170-square-foot edifice will include offices, an animal showroom, runs, cat cages, storage, fencing for animals, a laundry room and parking. City officials have discussed building a dog park there, too, as the municipality picks up about 20 dogs each month.
Converse hired The Sabinal Group as project manager of all four undertakings. Suarez said the idea of one company handling it all came while attending another town’s groundbreaking for a new building.
“We noticed some other cities — a bond was passed and it took six years later for the ribbon cutting,” he said. “I said to (former Converse City Manager) Lanny Lambert, you know we need these facilities to be built as soon as they can be built.”
The projects are just one part of the town’s efforts to boost its image, while attracting new businesses and investments to increase job opportunities and improve residents’ lives.
“We are seeking more retail in Converse, because retail generates sales tax, which helps to offset property taxes,” said Kate Silvas, Converse Economic Development Corp. executive director. “Also, having more local retail allows us to shop locally, without leaving the community and creating a better quality of life.”
In 2015, Converse city leaders rebranded their environs with the tagline “Connecting Community & Commerce” to emphasize linking the town through commercial growth.
Along with retail, Silvas said officials are attempting to lure more hospitality businesses — such as a brand-name hotel — along with additional health care businesses and information-technology companies.
“We’ll be attending the International Council of Shopping Centers’ Real Estate Convention in Nevada in May,” Silvas said. “We will be representing the community, meeting with retailers and hotels promoting Converse as a place of business. It takes time to make things happen. We will do our best, lean forward and raise the visibility of Converse.”