Could San Antonio suburb landscape change?

Group discusses farms, other amenities


SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio chapter of the Urban Land Institute, which focuses on the responsible leadership in land use to enhance the total environment, held a panel discussion Wednesday afternoon to look at the future of suburban living in San Antonio.

Part of the program included a presentation by Brian Cullen of Corbelis Management, a land development company based in the Northeast that developed the Willowsford master planned community outside of Washington, D.C.

The development includes large amounts of greenspace including a community farm.

"That is a very unique project, and the Washington, D.C. area is a unique area," said John Pierret, Executive VP of Forestar, which owns two communities in San Antonio, Stonewall Estates and Cibolo Canyons.

Pierret cited the DC area's mass transit and unique pockets outside of the main downtown that create psuedo-downtown job centers.

"It's just doing something different and really changing the components that we put in suburban development, whether it's a farm or great trails or a small coffee shop, retail place," said Brian Cullen, Willowsford Director of Development. "Something like that where you want to change the character, create a little soul to the community that's sometimes lacking in suburban development."

Cullen said carrying over components of Willowsford to San Antonio may not work, adding that every community has unique needs and desires and rising land prices limit what developers are willing to do with open space.

"I've seen them work and I've seen them not work," said Pierret. "We tried a little bit of it as more of a flower garden, herb garden type stuff."

"Historically, San Antonio hasn't had a lot of master planned communities that have a lot of the community team building types of amenities," said Michael Rafferty of Wheelock Street Capital, which owns Stillwater Ranch. "Partly because of the demographics, partly because maybe it's a smaller market than some other places."

For now, the city's suburban needs seem to focus on more traditional neighborhood amenities.

"More core stuff," said Pierret.  "Pools, swim team, jogging club, triathlon training, marathon training, half-marathon training."

"As it grows, in the right location, with the right price point, you can see some of that happen," added Rafferty.

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