A vacant piece of city-owned property was approved Tuesday to be turned into a mobility center in San Marcos.
City Council and staff have been discussing what to do with the property at 214 E. Hutchison St., San Marcos, since the city bought it for $216,000 and in 2010 demolished the dry cleaning building that sat on the land.
The new downtown mobility hub will include a performance stage, a mural, benches, green space, an electric car-charging stations, public art, a rain garden, a pet waste station, a water refill station, bike racks, a bike repair station, a snack bar and four parking spaces. The site will also have a future transit stop, according to planning documents.
Council also discussed adding a public restroom facility near the site, perhaps at the nearest park.
Development consulting firm Kimley-Horn Associates will produce the final construction documents based on the subcommittee’s recommendation. About $361,000 will be put aside in the city’s fiscal year 2018-19 Capital Improvements Projects budget.
Although the final construction documents have to come back to council for approval, most council members were supportive of the plans.
“I just think this is a vision that was a long time coming,” Council Member Melissa Derrick said.
Council Member Lisa Prewitt said she envisioned the mobility hub as a place for the community to come together.
“This is a really good place for Texas State [University] and locals to interact,” she said. “We are always trying to find those niches in our community where the two communities can integrate.”
Council Member Scott Gregson said he was concerned about the hub becoming a “hangout” spot that would attract smoking and alcohol consumption.
The San Marcos city code says smoking is prohibited within 10 feet of any city-owned property, including parks and City Hall. It is also unlawful to drink or display alcohol in city parks. City code also states it is illegal to have an open alcohol container between 10 p.m. and 2:15 a.m. in the city’s “central business section (old downtown)”.
Mobility hub vs. more parking
In fiscal year 2015-16, City Council earmarked $85,000 to turn the 6,000-square-foot space into a flat-surface parking lot.
In mid-2016, Kimley-Horn was chosen to design a “pocket park” on the property, but council members declined to approve the firm’s design plans in April 2017. The plans presented to City Council included shade structures, a rain garden and benches. The total estimated cost of construction was $344,566.
Instead of approving the designs, council formed a subcommittee of community members that included council members Derrick, Prewitt and Jane Hughson to look at alternate uses for the property.
Mayor John Thomaides and Gregson voted against formation of the subcommittee.
At the time, the 13 additional lots would have increased the no-fee downtown parking by 1.5 percent and the overall downtown parking by 1 percent, according to the April 2017 presentation.
On Tuesday, Thomaides stood by his wish to use the land for more parking.
“[Parking was a] need expressed to us greatly by the downtown merchants,” he said, adding the spaces could be leased out to various business owners. “I’m still at that place.”