The focus areas within the Medical Center Area Regional Center were identified by the Planning Team and the community as areas that have capacity for growth and change. While each area is unique, they all present opportunities, given their location within the Regional Center, to accommodate population and employment growth while simultaneously fulfilling the SA Tomorrow goal of creating compact walkable places where San Antonio residents can live, work, and play.
The biggest challenges identified by the community and the Planning Team are the disconnect between existing uses, and the difficulty of moving throughout the area, whether by foot, bus, vehicle, or any other means of transit. These obstacles were highlighted in every community and Planning Team discussion throughout the planning process. These five focus areas – the center of the Medical Center Area, the Babcock/Huebner/Floyd Curl Area, the Wurzbach Road and Babcock Road Area, the USAA Boulevard Area, and the Fredericksburg Road Mixed-Use Corridor - have potential for new development, including infill and redevelopment opportunities, and potential for streetscape redesigns needed to meet future needs and resolve the largest issues within the Regional Center. Each focus area is unique, as it achieves different components of SA Tomorrow as well as the Medical Center Area Regional Center goal of transforming the district into a live, work, play community.
To achieve this goal the community and Planning Team determined that it is imperative to enhance the area by increasing connectivity, walkability, safe access to public transit stops, availability of green spaces, and the amount and range of housing stock available; as well as creating a more cohesive district identity. The identified focus areas can be reactivated and designed to achieve these goals due to their existing conditions and locations within the Regional Center.
Recommendation #1:Update zoning and design standards to support the unique vision for each focus area, create high-quality places, support transportation choices, and avoid impacts to sensitive natural features.
- Current zoning and development regulations allow for mixed uses at a larger scale for phased or planned developments.
- Zoning districts and their accompanying development regulations that allow small to medium scale mixed use projects should promote development that is consistent with the goals of having mixed use, pedestrian friendly environments.
Recommendation #2:Ensure focus areas and other area amenities can be easily and safely accessed and used by all modes of travel. The Medical Center Area community is highly supportive of creating a safe, accessible, and distinct area that is unique and welcoming to visitors, residents and employees.
- Main corridors and focus areas must provide a safe environment for all users with a strong focus on the pedestrian.
- Multi-modal transportation and transit ridership will benefit from increased pedestrian connectivity as all riders must be able to safely access the transit center and bus stops.
- Protect existing trees and increase the amount of on-street landscaping and street trees to create a more pedestrian-friendly environment. Landscaping and trees provide shade and refuge from the extreme summer heat and will allow pedestrians to move more comfortably through the Medical Center Area Regional Center.
Recommendation #3:Promote the Community Vision of setting the example of a healthy community within the Medical Center Area Regional Center.
- Provide healthy food options for residents and visitors to encourage a healthy lifestyle. The Medical Center Area Regional Center has numerous restaurants, but many are fast food chains with few offerings for healthy eating.
- Provide opportunities for future community spaces or existing open spaces accessible to the public to be utilized as a farmers market.
- Use underutilized drainage ways, creeks, and utility easements to expand the greenway trail system in the Regional Center. There is currently a limited amount of green space recreational opportunities within the Medical Center Area. Additional green spaces will become destinations for the community and surrounding areas, increasing overall activity within the Medical Center Area.
- Additional amenities such as small parks or meditation gardens will support the goal of having a safe and healthy environment.
- Design and develop green spaces with low impact development (LID) techniques that help reduce regional flooding issues.
Recommendation #4:Balance development and investment in focus areas to provide mixed-use opportunities with a variety of housing types.
Recommendation #5:Prioritize improvements that provide safe connections to existing VIA service lines and the planned VIA Rapid Transit Corridor service for people walking, bicycling, or getting dropped off in a vehicle.
- A key goal of the Medical Center Area Regional Center planning process is to provide more housing options for those who work and attend school in the Medical Center Area. It is crucial that the variety of housing options also be accessible for all socioeconomic levels.
- The new housing developments located within the focus area should not be designed as a traditional single-family neighborhood with a single residential housing opportunity. Rather the developments should be developed to fit the context of the surrounding area to enhance connectivity opportunities for residents and provide a mixture of housing opportunities.
The Center of the Medical Center Area
The Center of the Medical Center Area is generally located around the intersection of Medical Drive and Wurzbach Road, in the focal center point of the Medical Center Area Regional Center. This area has a concentration of medical facilities that operate 24 hours a day and close proximity to the UT-Health Center San Antonio School of Dentistry to the north, and the main UT-Health Center San Antonio campus to the south. The area is characterized by large healthcare facilities and supporting industries, such as pharmacies. The buildings are densely built, up to 10 stories.
The vision for the Center of the Medical Center Area is to be a central gathering place. The area will serve as “The Heart of the Medical Center Area” and be convenient, accessible and safe any time of the day. Its proximity to major facilities creates the potential for employees, visitors, and residents to easily gather in the area and enjoy opportunities to be outside and seek moments of relaxation and respite in a relaxed environment. Publicly accessible amenities, such as parks, plazas, or parklets could provide informal recreation and gathering spaces needed in the area. Overall it should support a “campus feel” that welcomes guests and employees to informally gather and lounge in its public spaces. Meditative gardens or walking trails could connect to the area and support the overall goal of having and promoting a healthy environment. Adequate downward lighting should also be considered to promote safety for visitors, employees, or residents at all hours of the day and night.
Parking in the Medical Center Area, and especially in this central focus area, should be centralized and complemented with easy options for navigating and commuting between different facilities without the use of a car. This “park once” approach will help minimize congestion on area roads, improve air quality, and support the healthy and active environment that stakeholders desire for the area.
Babcock/Huebner/Floyd Curl Area
The area near Babcock Road, Huebner Road, and Floyd Curl Drive currently has mixed, medium density buildings, but also has vacant land that does not fall within San Antonio Medical Foundation deed restrictions that would limit the use of the property. The area currently has retail uses, restaurants, and clinics. The Huebner Creek tributary is also in the middle of the area.
A new housing development has been proposed to build 100+ single family units in the area. The design will promote common open spaces for the new neighborhood, highlight Huebner Creek as a community amenity, and promote a healthy environment through encouraging use of the outdoor trail system.
The vision for the area encourages active recreation. The area can support trail connectivity within the Huebner Creek tributary, down to Leon Valley. Due to the proximity to the tributary, some of the area cannot support development, but could encourage additional open space and trail development. Trail development will provide a unique asset to the new housing development as well as the existing residential uses to the south and connect the neighborhoods with each other. The area could be a mix of natural and functional open spaces that promote the overall vision of having a healthy and connected Medical Center Area.
New development to the area will provide a transition from the commercial and healthcare facilities towards the residential uses to the south of the focus area. Future buildings should be residential or mixed-use with medium density up to four or five stories, and include options such as townhomes, to provide additional housing options complementary to the new single family development and the apartment complexes in the area.
Wurzbach Road and Babcock Road Area
Babcock Road is a seven-lane road that informally serves as a border between less dense residential areas to the south, and more intense medical uses to the North, such as the Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital on Wurzbach Road. Wurzbach Road is also a high traffic road that is the only thoroughfare that extends north and south through the entire Medical Center Area Regional Center plan.
The intersection of these two busy roads is wide and poorly lit at night. The intersection is an informal gateway into the medical uses in the Regional Center and should welcome and encourage safe pedestrian access to the area. The Bob Ross Senior Center is also located near the intersection.
The vision for the intersection at Wurzbach Road and Babcock Road is a safe and inviting environment with mobility options that make the area accessible for people of all ages. The intersection will be a safe, walkable area between established facilities such as the VA hospital, the Bob Ross Senior Center, and the neighborhoods to the south. Future development will protect the existing trees along Wurzbach Road and any streetscape improvements should provide additional tree canopy. Streetscape improvements will be required to provide wider sidewalks and shade trees to protect pedestrians and VIA transit riders within the entire focus area. In addition, the crosswalks at the intersection of Wurzbach Road and Babcock Road must be improved and designed to incorporate public art consistent with an overall campaign to create a district identity across the Medical Center Area.
Future development could support a maximum building height that complements surrounding uses and transitions into residential areas. All new development should be set back from the road to provide a more welcoming environment for pedestrians. Additionally, all commercial and retail uses should be located on the street frontage to promote ground level activation. To ensure the street frontage is pedestrian friendly and a safe and comfortable environment, parking should be located in the rear of all new buildings and developments. Rear parking also prevents additional congestion on Babcock Road for vehicles entering or leaving the area.
USAA Boulevard Area
The area bounded by USAA Boulevard to the south and Research Drive to the north is another mostly vacant space within the Medical Center Area Regional Center. The area is in close proximity to McDermott Elementary School (Northside Independent School District), six single story office spaces in the northeast portion of the site, and the USAA Campus across Fredericksburg Road to the east. There are several multifamily residential complexes on the northern and southern boundaries of the focus area. An overhead power line easement separates the east and west side of the area and the Huebner Creek tributary runs perpendicular to the power line easement.
The vision for the USAA Boulevard Area is one that provides a mix of housing types and supporting office and retail uses. Its location adjacent to several major roads, proximity to both the heart of the medical district and USAA, and surrounding multifamily uses make this site ideal for more intense development that can help accommodate expected population growth in the Regional Center. Future development should encourage mixed-use projects and additional density that offers a variety of housing choices. The site should be designed to include an appropriate buffer or transition in intensity close to the elementary school.
Unbuildable areas such as the power line easement and Huebner Creek tributary should be leveraged to provide additional green space, trail connections, and public gathering space for the community. Additional trail connections will provide safe, alternative modes of transportation throughout the area and connect to the elementary school, the USAA main campus, and transportation corridors. Future building heights should be compatible with existing nearby buildings, which do not exceed four stories.
Fredericksburg Road Mixed-Use Corridor
Fredericksburg Road is the longest road in the plan area and runs from the most northern point of the Medical Center Area (Huebner Road) to the southern boundary leading into the City of Balcones Heights, crossing through two major intersections, at Wurzbach Road and Callaghan Road. This mixed-use corridor is one of the twelve thoroughfares identified in the SA Corridors Strategic Framework Plan. Development along the corridor includes a wide range of uses, including the USAA main campus, office buildings, apartment complexes, and retail uses. The current condition of the corridor is predominantly automobile oriented with poor pedestrian circulation. VIA operates several bus routes that run along or intersect with Fredericksburg Road, including a Primo route.
The vision for the Fredericksburg Road Mixed-Use Corridor is a safe, mixed-use community that provides a quality example of Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). Future land use designations along the corridor facilitate higher density uses that provide residential, retail, employment, and services options close to major employers within the Medical Center Area. Higher density land use also supports transit ridership, which helps alleviate traffic congestion. Future buildings shall range from two to six stories, with transitions to lower building heights in sections of the corridor adjacent to established residential neighborhoods, such as southeast of Callaghan Road.
Future improvements to the corridor should include expanded and enhanced transit service, and wide, accessible sidewalks and multi-use paths. Streetscape improvements should include landscaped elements that are not only attractive, but also provide safety, shade, and comfort for transit users and other pedestrians.
Parking facilities should consist of compact surface lots behind or between buildings and shared structured parking for larger developments. New developments should incorporate updated access management strategies that limit the number of driveways that can pose a heightened potential for automobile, pedestrian, and bicyclist conflict points. Residential complexes should consider creating safe and efficient sidewalks connecting residents to the transit stops along the corridor.