Less than one month after voters overwhelmingly approved the 2017 Municipal Bond program, all of the 180 projects of the bond are moving forward, Transportation and Capital Improvements Department Director Mike Frisbie said.
The projects in each of the six target areas – streets, bridges, and sidewalks; drainage and flood control; parks; library and cultural facilities; public safety facilities and neighborhood improvements – are at different progress stages, Frisbie said, but they are moving forward to meet their ideal completion dates in or before 2022.
Some projects are construction-ready or in the design process, while others are in the bidding process for engineer and design firms hoping to lead them to fruition.
The goal, as with the 2007 and 2012 bond programs, is to get as many of the projects done in the next five years while keeping within the set budget. About 96% of projects from the City’s 2012 bond program are complete or under construction, City Manager Sheryl Sculley said. City leaders and residents have high hopes for this year’s bond program, the largest in San Antonio history.
“We’re all really excited about the opportunity to make these improvements in the community,” Mayor Ivy Taylor said.
The City released the request for qualifications for civil engineering, landscape architecture, and architecture firms for 105 of the 180 projects on May 9. The final selections will be made in October.
Sidewalks and streets constitute one of San Antonio’s biggest needs in terms of infrastructure. The bond allocates $78 million toward sidewalks, with $48 million going toward unique sidewalk projects and $30 million in sidewalks as part of street improvement projects. City Council will review the recommended sidewalk project list this summer and staff will gather input from the public on the projects to finalize the list. City staff will then prepare the design and building schedules.
The first step for parks will be gathering community input on what residents want to see in their neighborhood green spaces, Frisbie said. The City already has a list of approved designers and engineers to carry out some of those efforts once they hear from the community.
The City is leveraging an additional $350 million to go toward projects that partner agencies and groups are partially funding. These projects range from the Broadway Street improvements to the San Pedro Creek project to athletics facilities at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
City Council can choose to create a citizen bond oversight committee to monitor the progress of the bond projects, Frisbie said. That timeline would entail recommending applicants in July, the governance reviewing those applicants in August, and Council approving them in September. Appointees would meet for the first time in October.
Citizens also can go to the bond website to find contact information and see real time information on cash flow, project schedules, and progress.
Included in the 2017-2022 bond was the Neighborhood Improvements bond – the city’s first-ever housing bond – which will target $20 million toward 12 of the most distressed areas in the city, chosen by a citizens bond committee and approved by City Council. The goal is to create more workforce and affordable housing, as well as improve certain neighborhoods throughout the city.
Through its urban renewal agency OurSA, the City can use the bond funds to purchase distressed properties in the areas, ready them for development, and then sell them to a nonprofit or for-profit developer for mixed-income or affordable housing. They also can make infrastructure improvements in those locations, demolish dilapidated structures, or address environmental issues at a site. The City will not use eminent domain to acquire properties.
A 17-member citizen advisory committee will help oversee the pilot program and will begin meeting in July. In August, the City will release a request for information and engage the citizen advisory committee, neighbors, and the City’s Housing Committee to determine which properties within the 12 areas should be acquired, Deputy City Manager Peter Zanoni said.
After gathering that feedback, the City will release a request for proposals for the individual projects. The City will make sure that each of the projects are compatible with the existing neighborhoods they’re implemented in, Zanoni added.
City Council will ultimately have to review and approve all developments before they go forward. The housing bond may be starting small with just $20 million within potentially one or more 12 neighborhood improvement areas approved by council, Zanoni said, but “this is a good opportunity for our community and a great opportunity to show success to our residents.”
City Council will vote Thursday to officially appropriate the funds for the bond program, allowing City staff to move forward with executing contracts and start the projects.