Developments increase housing options for residents

Planners aim for diversity with upcoming Buda, Kyle, San Marcos projects

With the addition of an apartment complex in Buda and the relocation of a national home builder to San Marcos, Hays County residents will soon have more housing options.

Developers said Silverado Crossing, which broke ground in June, should be completed by January.

Also in June, Bigelow Homes relocated its operations to San Marcos from the Chicago area.

The company has had a secondary office in San Marcos for six years, and has developed projects both in San Marcos and more recently in the Plum Creek area of Kyle.

"What prompted the move down to San Marcos as a company then, is that permits in the Chicagoland area ultimately dropped—from peak to trough—96 percent," said the company's president, Jamie Bigelow. "So there's nothing left. And this secondary division became the primary division."

Kurt David Goll, president of JCI Residential, the developer of the Silverado Crossing project, said it was not just the area's favorable housing market that led the company to choose Buda.

"Have you been to Buda? It's beautiful," Goll said. "We chose Buda because it is 13 miles from the most active, vibrant, healthy downtown in the U.S., and we have an easy commute to that nightlife, to that downtown. Not everybody wants to live in congested Austin."

'Retail follows rooftops'

Chance Sparks, director of planning for the City of Buda, said that the most recent count of multifamily units in the city showed there to be 32, mostly as duplexes and above retail spaces.

"Not exactly a large number," Sparks said.

Permitting and other building-related activities have been steadily increasing, Sparks said.

"Kind of the telltale sign is, we're seeing more activity in what's called entitlements—platting and subdivision—cutting up the land into lots," he said. "There's been a significant increase in that activity, which means that, from a market perspective, it means the builders are saying, 'We think things are looking up, and that's why we think we need to take down more lots.'"

U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that, nationwide, both building permits and housing starts increased in May 2012 when compared with May 2011. Regionally, housing completions in May 2012 increased 22.3 percent over completions in May 2011, according to the bureau.

Sparks said that by landing large employers first, Buda had sort of violated a development adage, "retail follows rooftops."

"It's one of the things that a lot of people don't realize, how many employers there are in Buda," he said. "Now the rooftops are really catching up, and I think we're going to start seeing a significant increase in the amount of retail activity."

Silverado Crossing

Buda's first apartment complex will be constructed on 18 acres just south of the post office and behind outdoors and sports store Cabela's. The $24 million project will offer 300 units, ranging from 625–1,250 square feet.

"When you start seeing stuff like that pop up, it just kind of means the city is reaching a growth point," Sparks said. "We have employers here that have employees that can support a multifamily project like that."

Goll said some people in the community have expressed uncertainty about the project.

"I think there was a general sense that we were building 300 units to bring 300 people from Austin to Buda," he said. "We're building this for Buda. There may be some people that move there, maybe people from San Marcos, but we are building, for the most part, for Buda residents to live there."

He said the small-town feel of the city was a huge draw for the company when deciding where to build.

"Buda is beautiful, it's well-located, [and] it deserves this type of project," he said. "You know, if you graduate high school in Buda, where do you go? You go to Austin. You don't stay in Buda. If you want to keep Buda's population in Buda, they need somewhere other than single-family homes. You're not going to graduate high school and then go buy a house."

Housing options

For many reasons, attracting a variety of housing options is something the City of Kyle is also actively seeking, Director of Planning Sofia Nelson said.

"[It's] Not just to have more multifamily and to be able to attract people of all

housing incomes to our community, but also to be able to retain those people that we do have as they move through their life cycle and their housing needs change," Nelson said.

Nelson said senior housing is an area where the city most recently began seeing growth. The Overlook at Plum Creek broke ground June 5 on its facility for residents 55 and older. The project is expected to be completed by May.

Nelson also cited the city's desire to attract more developers and builders of combination live-work housing options, townhomes and condominiums.

"As developers meet with us in pre-development meetings, we do always indicate where we're at in terms of our housing product now and how we'd like to diversify that," she said. "It's really all types [of housing] and not just saying that we want to see I-35–style multifamily [complexes]."

Relocation

With its operations, Bigelow brought 11 permanent jobs to San Marcos and will bring hundreds of seasonal and temporary positions. According to the company, each house it builds uses roughly 26 local subcontractors, which equates to about 300 jobs at any given time.

Bigelow said that since the company had been in the city for several years, it did not seek any incentives to relocate.

"We were so established I just didn't feel that it was something necessary for them to do. We didn't need to be induced, per se, because we were already [facing] the economic reality of our industry," he said. "In short, we're building some houses instead of no houses."

While the housing market had fallen off in Chicago by 96 percent, Bigelow said it had dropped only by about 60 percent–70 percent in Texas.

"All of our business was down here, ultimately, so we moved the company. The difference is, there's lower unemployment, there's more homes being bought and sold," he said. "There's still a housing need. That's just the bottom line."



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