Nine months since the South Castell Avenue visioning plan was approved by New Braunfels City Council, there is still a lot going on behind the scenes with the project that has gotten it to where it is today, said Michael Meek, President and CEO of the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce.
Although the project has had little seeable movement the past nine months as the city negotiates with Union Pacific over remaining railroad tracks and works to relocate the public works department, much has happened to get the project to where it is today, and it continues to happen in the wings.
“The South Castell visioning initiative always projected to be a three-to-six year timeline,” Meek said. “It takes time to gather up a sizable parcel like this for the development community.”
The former city hall site on South Castell Avenue still houses the public works department and Comal County Count at Law Judge Randy Gray until 2021. The city knows it has to find a new, more permanent home for the public works department, and they knew it would take a few years, Meek said.
“Hence the lease to the county of the old city hall for Judge Gray’s Court until 2021,” Meek said. “Now that the May 2019 bond issue passed overwhelmingly, the city can entertain the future location of the garbage trucks where they have been nearly 30 years. The current site was to be ‘temporary’ when moved there from where they were — which is the Headwaters at the Comal area today.”
The city also wants to secure the 3 acre rail yard next to the city’s 7 acres to have 10 acres together when the proposal goes out to bid, Meek said.
“A community group of volunteers gave the property to the railroad in 1888 for $1 so they would stop here to help our community strive,” Meek said. “Now in 2019, we again need to find a solution with the railroad to help the community strive. We can do it.”
It’s well known that South Castell Avenue is quickly evolving with new uses much different than the industrial zoning it has, Meek said.
“Examples over the last few years has been Krause’s, 188 South, Producers Coop moving recently and a new use planned there, HMT Engineering remodeling the former Centerpoint Energy building, First Protestant Church Ed Center, etc.”
It was because of these changes the city, chamber and other city advocates came together to form a visioning plan, Meek said.
“The South Castell Visioning Project was a by-product of the 2010 Downtown Implementation Plan, the 2012 City Economic Development Strategy, and now the City Comprehensive Plan,” Meek said.
In preparation for the New Braunfels future, the 4B board purchased the former Chase Bank 1 acre property two years ago with a long term goal of helping the South Castell vision, and in the short term providing more parking for the Civic/Convention Center, Meek said.
“The Civic Convention Center from its re-opening in 2008 knew it could only attract around 58% of group and association business without an adjacent hotel,” Meek said, alluding to the visioning plan options that include the construction of a hotel/convention center. “With an adjacent hotel, they can go after more of this lucrative visitor year round business.”
Having a multi-use development on this end of our downtown will compliment what is occurring all the way to McAdoos along S. Castell, Meek said.
“The potential upside to the community is worth doing this right and taking the time to enact the community approved vision for the property,” Meek said. “In my 30-plus years here, major initiatives take time. Lots of time.”
While there will always be folks against projects like the South Castell Avenue project, the project is a positive development for New Braunfels, Meek said.
“Just like the CTTC, Civic Convention Center, and someday soon South Castell, those that stick to an approved city-wide vision help change the community for the better,” Meek said.