A proposal for high-end housing on the outskirts of San Marcos, which met with opposition from environmentalists last year, is back with a new name and an even larger scope.
La Cima, a community of 1,700 to 2,000 homes planned near Wonder World Drive and Old Ranch Road 12, could be one of the most expensive developments for San Marcos, with a total price tag between $850 million and $1 billion. Prices for houses will start around $250,000 and go above $1 million, developers said.
There is a need for housing in that price range, experts said, if fast-growing San Marcos is going to attract corporate relocations and high-paying jobs.
“It is a significant housing project for San Marcos,” said Hays Commissioner Will Conley. “We are almost out of housing for middle income and executive housing.”
The project, previously called Lazy Oaks, has grown from 1,397 acres to 2,050 acres just west of Interstate 35, but plans filed this week call for about the same number of homes as before. This time, the firm, La Cima Developers, plans bigger lots and a larger, 700-acre easement to Hays County that would remain open green space.
The plans also call for a 200-acre corporate and commercial area, with the hopes of bringing jobs close to the neighborhood.
“The idea of living where you work and play makes a lot of sense,” said developer Bill Ward. “This is the type of development the citizens of Hays County and San Marcos can be proud of and one that addresses many of the issues facing the area, while respecting its natural beauty.”
Environmentalists aren’t convinced. The property sits on the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, and Purgatory Creek runs through it. Dianne Wassenich, program manager for the San Marcos River Foundation, said the group is “very concerned that our city is allowing our recharge zone to be built on, with such a large housing development.”
In addition to the 700-acre easement granting the most environmentally sensitive land to the county, the developer would also create a 100-acre park that would connect with a system of trails up to 10 miles long.
Developers are also planning $13 million in infrastructure improvements such as roads and utility lines, and would donate 10 acres for the San Marcos school district to build a school in the neighborhood.
“This development has the potential to generate quality executive housing, job opportunities for our community and a new tax base for much-needed infrastructure improvements,” Conley said. “And, there is the possibility of preserving up to 800 acres of green space for our citizens. La Cima could certainly address many of our region’s longtime identified needs.”
Developer Chuck Perry said they plan to start infrastructure improvements this year and hope to have lots for sale by the third quarter of 2015. It’ll take about 10 years to build out the community.
Eldon Rude, a Central Texas housing market expert, said housing demand remains strong in the area.
“In my nearly 30 years of tracking the Central Texas real estate markets, I have never seen this level of investor and developer interest in the San Marcos market,” said Rude, principal of 360 Real Estate Analytics, a real estate consulting firm. His firm’s latest research found a number of projects that could add a total of 14,000 single family lots to the market around San Marcos.
Demand is being fueled largely by the strong population growth in San Marcos and Hays County — more than 3 percent a year between 2010 and 2013, he said, as well the “huge increases in student enrollment at Texas State University over the last decade or so,” which has catapulted from 21,765 students in 1999 to 35,500 in 2013.