This past Monday Texas Public Radio broadcasted an interview with yours truly and our esteemed Council woman, Ivy Taylor. The interviewer wanted our take of the BRAC and what impact it will have on the surrounding neighborhoods. Then on Tuesday, Ms Taylor and I were part of panel discussion at st Phillip's College on the BRAC that was recorded for later broadcast by Texas Public Radio. Besides myself and the council woman, the panel included the post commander at Ft Sam Houston, Col. Mary Garr and city official, James Henderson. You can catch the interviews and panel discussion on line at: http://www.tpr.org/programs/thesource.html
In case you've been away for awhile, the BRAC at Ft Sam Houston will be bringing an estimated 12,000 troops to the post. The potential economic impact from this BRAC expansion is estimated to be $8.3 billion. On the surface it sounds like a huge impact but to put things into perspective 80% of that impact is due to the new construction currently taking place on the post. Once construction is finished then it is estimated that the economic impact will increase $1.6 billion annually with additional annual sales tax revenue of $4.9 million. During the construction period on the post an estimated 62,000 construction jobs could be created. After the BRAC is completed an estimated 15,000 jobs could potentially be supported by the community due to the increase in missions on the post. The on-going earnings potential from these post-BRAC jobs is estimated to be $1.3 billion annually. Pretty impressive!
Source for the above data: Ft. Sam Houston Economic Impact Update, March 2009, http://www.sanantonio.gov.oma/
So what does this all this mean to the neighborhoods the surround Ft Sam Houston? Well, at this point not much. Expectations had been raised that since no new housing would be built on the post for the expected influx of troops, the surrounding neighborhoods would be absorbing those folks. Realistically, that is not going to happen, at least not immediately. Neighborhoods such as Government Hill or Dignowity Hill are still in the nascent stages of revitalization with much work to be done on improving infrastructure, dealing with aging housing stock, and other quality of life issues. The current reality is that many of the troops that will initially make landfall at Ft Sam will be making home buying or house renting choices away from these historic neighborhoods. This has already occur ed with the first wave of troops and civilians that have arrived at Ft. Sam. There are other questions and issues that need to be addressed as well. For example, the New Braunfels Street gate that leads into Ft. Sam Houston from IH 35 has been closed since after 9-11. Having this gate closed has had an adverse effect on businesses on that corridor and on the Government Hill neighborhood. The military is not willing to either open up the gate again or even consider the possibility of engaging in a conversation with neighborhood or community leaders. Hmmm....interestingly, the logo for the BRAC tells us to Embrace BRAC but the current attitude from the military on the New Braunfels street gate issue is not exactly a warm abrazo!
But...I remain hopeful.....the best thing we can do at this point is to plan for the long term, continue revitalizing our neighborhoods, keep nudging both the city and military on finding ways to create positive solutions and most importantly, get over the fact that this BRAC thing is not all what it was hyped up to be for our neighborhoods!