A Decade into Planning
Nearly a decade into planning and negotiations, the Veramendi master-planned development is “starting to heat up,” according to Stacy Snell, New Braunfels assistant director of planning and community development.
At the end of several phases and with an estimated $2 billion value, the mixed-use development will feature a maximum of 6,000 residences; retail, office and commercial spaces; and a city center. City officials and the developer have discussed a hospital, a college campus and a riverfront resort hotel for some of the land.
At their November and December meetings the city’s planning division approved six residential plats that allow for the construction of 388 single-family homes within the first phase.
The Veramendi property is made up of 2,400 acres just outside the city limits in the extraterritorial jurisdiction where the city can extend its authority beyond its normal boundaries. It sits north of Loop 337 on both sides of River Road.
The project started as a joint venture between ASA Properties and the Word Borchers family, owners of the property since 1941.
“[The Word Borchers] are an integral part of the community,” ASA Properties CEO Peter James said. “They wanted to be part of how it’s developed and what it looks like moving forward. All of the design work and the vision of the ranch has been worked up in conjunction with them.”
The approval of the residential plats follows construction of Veramendi Elementary School, which opened in August. The school, funded by a 2015 bond, has steered the project into the next phase of residential units, according to Snell.
“That’s a good selling point for a home when the school’s right there,” Snell said, noting that construction of the new homes will begin early 2018.
What’s coming next?
The approved subdivision plats are part of Sector Plan 1A, which details how the first 273 acres of Veramendi will be used.
“How the [overall development]plan has been set up is [the city and ASA Properties]are going to have to detail a minimum of 100 acres at a time,” Snell said. “They’re not going to just do a 5-acre or 10-acre tract. You have to plan the roads and everything at a bigger scale.”
According to Sector Plan 1A, Veramendi will be the future home a Howard Payne University campus and a Christus Santa Rosa Hospital location. According to Jim Wesson, CEO of Christus Santa Rosa Hospital in New Braunfels, initial operations will include outpatient services, physician office space and medical retail space, but the long-term plan is for the site to serve as a replacement campus for the existing facility located at 600 N. Union Ave. The timeline for some of the construction, including the hospital, is linked to the redevelopment of Loop 337 from a two-lane to a four-lane road. The four-year, $42 million construction project broke ground with a ceremony in November.
James said conceptual planning is in progress for a neighborhood commercial center, and potential tenants include medical and professional offices, pediatric dentistry, a day care and a recreational business.
General conversations about the Veramendi development began in 2008. Realtor Craig Hall connected the Word Borchers family with ASA Properties, an Australian firm eyeing opportunities on the I-35 corridor.
“The family got the best of the best,” Hall said. “Peter [James] undersells himself, but he is probably the best planner and land-development guy debatably globally. Whether it’s up for debate or not, the family would not have went with ASA Properties if they did not feel that way.”
The city of New Braunfels became involved with the project after the 2009 Texas Legislature approved the creation of the Comal County Water Improvement District
No. 1, with the requirement that the city would have to consent to its creation. A development agreement with the city was approved in 2013, as was a utility agreement with New Braunfels Utilities.
According to Snell, the establishment of the CCWID1 creates a taxing entity that can post bonds as a way to pay for the infrastructure up front and then be reimbursed by tax revenue.
“When the debt gets down to the amount agreed to, [Veramendi] can be annexed into the city; then the streets and infrastructure will become the responsibility of the city and NBU,” Snell said.
Getting the necessary infrastructure in place ahead of the development has been a priority during the planning phases for Veramendi. Traffic upgrades, drainage systems, a regional stormwater control facility, and major upgrades to water and sewer through the association with NBU are all part of the development agreement. Veramendi is also its own emergency service district that will receive fire, EMS and police services from the city.
“It’s a large project, but in terms of doing all work necessary to make sure it is properly serviced and integrated into the city of New Braunfels, we’ve spent a lot of time and effort on that with the authorities,” James said.
Features of the project
The Veramendi development includes 1.5 miles of frontage property along the Guadalupe River, which has not been previously accessible to the public and paves the way for a possible resort hotel in a later phase of the project.
The development will include 480 acres of designated parkland, and no more than 65 percent of the property can be covered in impervious materials, such as sidewalks, driveways, patios or other structures.
“If the rain can’t get through it, then it will count toward that maximum 65 percent, so the goal is to retain the open space and the feel,” Snell said.
Max Harford, a New Braunfels native and development manager of Veramendi, stresses the importance of incorporating the development into the city in a consistent way.
“We’re trying to offer something for everyone in this community and making 2,400 acres feel like a whole and not segmented, and make it feel like part of the whole of New Braunfels as well,” Harford said.
James agreed the development will be done the right way to complement the growth of New Braunfels.
“If you want to encapsulate it in a few words, we would be chasing a contemporary Texas Hill Country feel with a strong association with the natural environment,” James said.
James estimates the major components of the project in terms of the commercial development and the town center will be well underway in a 10-year time frame, but the total absorption of the land likely falls in the 15-to 20-year range. Information on the city of New Braunfels website predicts the ultimate build-out of the project to be in 2035.