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Kim_Gatley
Kim Gatley
S
enior Vice President & Director of Research at REOC San Antonio

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CREW San Antonio – 2010 Real Estate Forum Re-cap

If you missed it, CREW San Antonio hosted another fine Real Estate Forum event on Tuesday, March 23rd downtown at the Henry B. Gonzalesz Convention Center. 

As moderator, Tricia Lynn Silva, reporter for the San Antonio Business Journal, introduced each speaker starting with Scott Larsen, General Manager of the Holiday Inn San Antonio International Airport and President of the San Antonio Hotel and Lodging Association.  Scott stated that between 2007 and 2009, growth in the hospitality industry accounted for a 21% increase in the total number of hotel rooms located within the greater San Antonio area which now offers more than 40,000 rooms.  Scott’s presentation was mainly about the “green” movement within the industry and how area hotels are working to recycle and conserve.

Sarah Teel, Principal/Investment Specialist with MSL Investments, spoke about the Medical industry – not only its economic impact but also its impact on real estate.  Sarah suggested that healthcare reform has worked to slow activity within medical office buildings because physicians are waiting to learn how legislation will impact their business.

Rob Sult, CCIM, Managing Director, Development Services for USAA Real Estate Company, presented more of a national look at real estate pointing out that Austin and San Antonio remain bright spots on the overall landscape.  Rob shared data charts that suggested that job losses are abating and that the recession is flattening.  Substantial stimulus programs have helped but the outlook looks flat for many months ahead.  Rob referred to the “debt maturing problem” for many commercial real estate owners and expects that it will be 2011 or 2012 before the office market recovers.  Rob said that except for some medical projects, “Spec” is a four-letter word and the only projects moving ahead in this economy will be public-money projects.

Sid Martinez, Director of San Antonio-Bexar County MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) spoke about San Antonio’s growing Transportation challenges in the midst of diminishing funds.  Projects moving ahead include the completion of Wurzbach Parkway (finally) to begin in the late Fall of this year or early Spring of next year and to be completed within two years.  The 281 “Superstreet” project is also moving ahead as is the extension of 36th Street which is expected to break ground in April and will serve to open up access to Port San Antonio.  Currently under the necessary environmental review are projects to add lanes to 281 from Loop 1604 to Bexar County Line as well as to Loop 1604 from I-10 on the east side north to I-35.  Sid also mentioned that VIA is considering an electric streetcar project and talked about rail service between Georgetown and San Antonio.

Wrapping up the forum discussion, former Mayor Phil Hardberger, now with Cox Smith & Matthews, shared his vision for San Antonio.  As San Antonio competes with other cities, “quality of life” is one of our best selling points.  As such, the former Mayor emphasized the need to embrace the green industry and work towards sustainability which he defined as living within your means in an environmental sense.  Over the past ten years, San Antonio has doubled its park acreage, according to Hardberger, but our 20,000 acres of green space represents only 7½% of the total city land – a mediocre performance compared to national average.  Hardberger concluded his presentation by inviting everyone to the grand opening of the Hardberger Park, located on either side of Wurzbach Parkway between N.W. Military Highway and Blanco Road.  The first phase of the 311-acre park is set to open on May 15th and will continue to open 20% over the next five years until the park is complete.  Read more on the City of San Antonio’s Park and Recreation website – Hardberger Park.

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