The Bexar County Hospital District plans to buy land in one of the fastest-growing corridors in the nation for a full-service, acute care hospital. 

At a recent meeting, the district’s board of managers approved the purchase of 42.5 acres of vacant land near Retama Park, the horse racing track along Interstate 35 in Selma. 

The purchase price for the property, owned by Pinnacle Retama Partners and Retama Development Corp., is $11.5 million. The land is located at the corner of Retama Parkway and Lookout Road and includes an adjacent tract of 6.4 acres that the system also could acquire.

The goal is to build a hospital in what the district considers an underserved area within a fast-growing county, according to documents provided by University Health.

“We’ve studied the population growth and the health care needs in Bexar County, and there is a need for community hospital services in that part of the county that will only grow as the San Antonio-Austin corridor continues to develop,” Ed Banos, University Health executive vice president and chief operating officer, said via email. “It will serve that part of the community, and at the same time allow us to more efficiently provide specialized hospital services at University Hospital in the Medical Center.”

University Health embarked on an $899 million capital improvement plan in 2014 that included a new Sky Tower in the South Texas Medical Center and the Robert B. Green campus downtown. 

In late 2019, hospital officials broke ground on a $500 million, 300-bed Women’s and Children’s Hospital expected to open in early 2023, and last year, University Health purchased an 80-acre tract of land at Loop 1604 North and Shaenfield Road in the far western region of the county. 

The system also operates more than a dozen health care clinics in neighborhoods around the county. In 2019, nearly 639,000 people visited one of those outpatient clinics. But clinic visits also lead to a demand for routine inpatient care, which has at times pushed its main hospital to capacity, according to the proposal. 

A new hospital in the far northeastern suburban area would relieve that pressure, address the projected growth in population, and allow University Health to provide specialized levels of medical care beyond the main Medical Center campus. 

“While we do not have a specific timeline for building a new hospital on the site, it makes sound financial sense, given growth patterns and health care needs, to secure the property now,” Banos said.

Other vacant land tracts adjacent to Retama Park include a 20-acre property fronting I-35 that is owned by local auto dealership owners McCombs Family Partners, according to county deed records.

The 5-square-mile city of Selma lies within three counties – Bexar, Comal, and Guadalupe. In less than 10 years, census data shows its population more than doubled to 11,000 in 2019.

The hospital could spur more economic development and bring jobs to the surrounding area, said Johnny Casias, Selma city administrator.

“For the longest time, our growth had been not just commercial/industrial, but also residential,” Casias said. “Now what we’re starting to see is the available land that we do have is more commercial and industrial-focused, and that’s probably what we’re going to see as the city builds out over the next 15 to 20 years.”

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.