Scott & White Healthcare recently filed a request with the city to rezone almost 100 acres of land near the intersection of Rock Prairie Road and State Highway 6. Many recognize this area as the site of a protracted disagreement over the most appropriate use of the land, but few would disagree this area is primed for development because of its ideal location.
What’s just as apparent is that the site possesses a number of constraints and challenges that limit its potential: The intersection of SH-6 and Rock Prairie Road is nearing capacity; the Rock Prairie Road and Longmire intersection is strained to the maximum; Rock Prairie Road travelling east is little more than a two-lane country road; sewer service to the site is limited; and, of course, nearby neighborhoods are concerned about how the property is ultimately used.
Over the years, College Station has attempted to balance these opportunities and challenges, although not without controversy. However, there are several reasons why I believe the current proposal is a good one that addresses those opportunities and challenges.
Blending with the Comprehensive Plan, market opportunities
The city’s recently adopted Comprehensive Plan identified this area as best suited for a mix of future land uses — all within a special district — focusing on medical services and neighborhood scale retail and office opportunities. The plan was developed with the intent to recognize the market opportunities that exist, as well as the area’s varied challenges and constraints.
Reaching out to neighborhoods
Recognizing the desire to be a good neighbor, Scott & White initiated meetings with neighborhood leaders. At these meetings, Scott & White presented its vision, listened to concerns and answered questions. A number of the items included in the Planned Development District (PDD) by Scott & White were a direct result of this engagement effort.
Using a Planned Development District to address challenges
The request filed with the city is for a rezoning to a PDD, rather than for a C-1 General Commercial zoning district, as was the case with previous requests. Scott & White acknowledges that while market opportunities on the site are significant, so are the challenges and the need to work through them in detailed fashion. In College Station, PDDs are used to ensure that land use, streets, landscaping, architecture, etc. are provided in a manner appropriate for the specific site, meeting unique opportunities and challenges.
No big-box next to the neighborhoods
One of the most important steps Scott & White has taken is acknowledging that, to be successful, the land uses permitted on the property need to be limited. This is necessary to achieve the vision they have for the property, as well as to address the challenges and constraints. The primary focus will be a new hospital and associated medical offices. Additional land uses will be limited in intensity and scale. Gone are the possibilities of big-box retail stores, and in their place are neighborhood-serving retail and office uses.
Scott & White also recognizes the need to ensure quality design throughout the site. Again, its desire is to develop in a manner that complements their investment in a hospital and the surrounding area. Scott & White used the city’s Non-Residential Architectural Standards as a starting point and created additional criteria: limiting the height of buildings fronting Rock Prairie Road; ensuring the design of buildings along that road have an architectural style compatible with surrounding residential uses; and enhancing landscaping.
Phased development to address traffic issues
The property has some fairly significant traffic management constraints. As required by city ordinances, a traffic impact analysis was performed. This analysis clearly illustrates that full development of this site cannot occur without significant upgrades to the surrounding transportation network. What can be accommodated are the hospital, an associated medical office building and a minimal amount of additional development generating approximately 5,400 daily trips. Further, it’s necessary to limit those additional trips to lots that access the SH-6 frontage road rather than Rock Prairie Road.
This first phase of development is all that can occur until further road improvements are made. By contrast, full development of the site for commercial purposes would have generated traffic equivalent to that on Harvey Road in a typical day.
Thoroughfare upgrades would improve mobility
Unlike previous proposals, Scott & White’s request includes full compliance with the city’s adopted thoroughfare plan. That means, in addition to phasing development and constructing upgrades on the SH-6 frontage road and Rock Prairie, Scott & White also will be constructing three new thoroughfares across their property. These thoroughfares will provide multiple ways to enter and exit the property and will someday become part of the network that provides an alternative north-south route.
Property tax implications
Though the hospital itself and perhaps some of the related medical offices are likely to be tax-exempt, the majority of the property will include land uses that will contribute to the city’s ad valorem tax base. This is in addition to sales tax generated and to the hundreds of new jobs created by the new development. Further, a portion of the property is owned by the College Station Independent School District and is not currently on the tax rolls. Through this project, it will be returned to the tax rolls as private development occurs.
Additionally, concerns have been voiced that the city lost tax revenue by not rezoning the entire property for general commercial activities. It’s important to note that private developers have continued to expand the city’s retail offerings and tax base in this area through the Tower Point development with HEB, the Lowe’s project, and the expansion of Walmart into one of the largest Super Centers in the nation. This area of our city has seen more than $25 million of new construction value added in retail businesses in just the past couple of years. Development of this site in the manner proposed in the PDD will continue to add opportunities while respecting the constraints and challenges.
Nearly everything is different. Scott & White has made a proposal that takes full advantage of market opportunities in this portion of College Station while addressing the challenges and maintaining sensitivity to the concerns of nearby property owners. This is truly a win-win for Scott & White, for neighboring property owners and for the city.
Director | Planning & Development Services