Corpus Christi Dreams of Town Center Development in London/Southside Districts
Feature Illustration (above): Google Streets photo of Oso Bay with inset concept illustration of a hike and bike trail where Oso Creek empties into the bay.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Corpus Christi (Nueces County) — With dreams of future town center developments, the Planning Commission recommended adoption of the London Area Development Plan.
The Feb. 5 decision on a document the planning department labored on for over a year, represents the hope of city officials and stakeholders for a future that will mimic the sort of higher density mixed use development that has been trending across the nation.
Pointing to successes such as San Antonio’s Pearl district and Austin’s Dominion, the Planning Commission recommended two area development plans (see London and Southside updates here) that are geographically adjacent and most in the path of new construction.
Much of the Southside district is already developed but there are vacant areas and underdeveloped sites that offer opportunities.
Gensler concept rendering of the Del Mar College Southside Campus upon completion.
Most promising is the December groundbreaking for the first new building on the future 96-acre Del Mar College Southside campus. Commissioners look to the Southside campus as a place where thoughtful future development could make it ground zero for a town center with the walkable, high density, mixed-use development that to date Corpus Christi has not experienced.
Anticipated to open in 2022, the $139 million Southside Campus Project incorporates construction of 249,544 square feet of building space:
Central Plant: 8,631 SF
Hospitality and Culinary Institute: 59,561 SF
Main Building: 80,437 SF
STEM Building: 100,915 SF
Unlike the Southside Area Development Plan (ADP), the lion’s share of the London ADP is not within the city limits. The district is named after the London Independent School District and the boundaries are very similar to those of the school district.
Most of the London ADP is still rural and agricultural, but that is expected to change quickly.
Map of the London and Southside districts. Source: City of Corpus Christi.
The Southside district grew from 35,000 people in 2000 to 117,029 by 2018.
The London district is experiencing a faster growth rate, but by 2018 still only had 1,756 residents. Its average annual growth rate is 7.29% versus 0.99% for all of Corpus Christi.
In 2018, the city annexed about 880 acres to accommodate the utility needs of three homebuilders–MPM Homes Inc., Tamez Development, and Braselton Homes.
The Future Land Use Map of the London ADP–which City Council will consider adopting in March–is the city’s guide map for its representatives hope will occur. But it lacks the enforcement teeth that would exist in a privately held, master planned community.
London ADP Land Use Map
Commissioner Sheldon Schroeder, making reference to San Antonio’s Pearl district and town centers like that, noted there is very little designated mixed-use in the Southside ADP map.
“The reason I find this London plan favorable is because of the mixed use,” Schroeder said. “If this plan actually takes effect and develops somewhat like this … it’s likely to be very healthy. These vast yellow areas of low to middle density housing, if they don’t end up with some more commercial nodes in there, they’re not likely to be as walkable.
“They’re going to be these subdivisions that take forever to get out of like you run into Houston and Dallas and you don’t know which way is in and which way is out.”
Commissioners highlighted the importance of getting the London and Southside ADPs right by pointing out that Corpus Christi’s downtown is at the northeast edge of Corpus Christi Bay. The bay and port restrict all growth to the west and south, and territory to the south has always been more attractive because it’s closer to the beaches and seabreezes.
The north boundary of the London district is Oso Creek, which is also another key attraction. The London ADP considers the creek a vital quality of life asset that should be improved through the introduction of new parks and trails.
The ADP’s sustainable growth statement says, “Development in the London Area should occur intentionally and sustainably while following planned infrastructure and maintaining the desired low- to medium-density of the area. Utilize planned infrastructure to create public spaces and amenities for the community. Ensure that new development is built in concert with the environment to preserve the natural landscape and protect adequate drainage areas and create a sustainable community.
“Oso Creek and Bay are a unique amenity for the City and especially for the London area.
With easy accessibility and opportunities to facilitate outdoor recreation, the Oso Creek and Bay could be a unique destination for the entire community. Improvements to Oso Creek and Bay, including improved water quality, the construction of a continuous trail, educational features, and water access, will make this feature inviting to all ages.”
Concept of a future nature trail and park amenities along Oso Creek.
The London ADP includes three stages of public improvement investments that could be incorporated into the city’s capital improvement program. These are divided up as short-term (5-year), mid-term (6 to 10 years), and long-term needs.
Short-Term : 2020-2025
A greenbelt/stormwater master plan
FM 2444 – construct a five-lane curb and gutter roadway, with TxDOT funding
South Oso Parkway street improvements
County Road 33 street improvements
SH 286 water line replacement
Greenwood Wastewater Treatment Plant improvements
Mid-Term : 2025-2030
Fire Station #19 new building and ambulance, located in the vicinity of SH 286 and FM 43
Drainage Channel Trail Development Phase I
Oso Creek Trail Phase I
Oso Creek Trail Phase II
Crosstown Extension to FM 2444, with TxDOT funding
Long-Term : 2030+
Fire Station #19 fire truck and ladder truck
Fire Station #20 – new building in the vicinity of SH 286 and FM 2444
Oso Creek Trail Phase III
Drainage Channel Trail Development Phase II
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.