LONGHORN SACK LEADER BAGS PRIME REAL ESTATE
In the mid 1980s, Julian "Kiki" DeAyala was blitzing San Antonio Gunslingers quarterbacks in the old USFL days at Alamo Stadium.
Two decades later, he is chasing down new development opportunities in the Alamo City and is already moving forward on his first big project here...
DeAyala is president of Houston-based DeAyala Properties, which has acquired some 80 acres of prime real estate on San Antonio's far West Side. That acreage is situated along the northwest corner of Military Drive and State Highway 151, an area DeAyala says is "emerging as a preferred corridor for commuter traffic."
DeAyala, a former All-USFL linebacker for the Houston Gamblers, says plans for that acreage includes a mix of hotel, entertainment and office complexes. He says the project will likely take up to four years to fully build out and could represent an eventual total investment of more than $200 million.
Equally important, DeAyala says, his firm is interested in pursuing additional projects here.
"We are looking at other sites in San Antonio," says DeAyala, the all-time sack leader at the University of Texas who spearheaded the purchase of the initial 80-acre site.
"It's a hot market," DeAyala continues. "There is a lot going on there already. But there is plenty of room to grow."
DeAyala won't say what other sites his firm might look to develop in San Antonio. But he does say the Alamo City is a market on the move.
DeAyala predicts that in his lifetime, "San Antonio and Austin will grow together to become one big (market)."
Sold on San Antonio
It was DeAyala who went to Laredo a few years ago with Arena Ventures to help kick-start a $40 million Laredo Entertainment Center project. In 2002, that 10,000-seat arena opened its doors and in year one hosted more than 100 events. It is also home to one of the Central Hockey League's most successful franchises, the Laredo Bucks, which are affiliated with the American Hockey League's San Antonio Rampage.
That development has since spurred additional development, including a 14-screen movie theater complex, an automotive dealership and a new Hawthorne Suites hotel. DeAyala says Laredo National Bank, along with restaurants and other retail establishments, have solidified the Laredo development.
Now DeAyala has his sites set on the Alamo City, in an area that has attracted his attention first because it is surrounded by a number of premier developments, such as SeaWorld and the Hyatt Hill Country Resort. It is situated in an area expected to add another quarter-million people over the next 15 years.
Charles Martin Wender, a veteran local developer with deep roots in Westover Hills, says San Antonio is "all about corridors," adding, "Now (Hwy.) 151 is becoming one of those corridors we always knew it would be."
Says DeAyala, "The Westover Hills/Northwest Area of San Antonio is the fastest growing area of the city. It has a large base of major employers and has attracted many national home builders."
As such, DeAyala says his project will only add to the "significant retail, office and medical projects planned for the area." Furthermore, he is convinced that "much more is needed to keep pace with the population growth."
DeAyala says talks are under way with multiple hotel operators. The end result, he says, could ultimately be a three-hotel complex anchoring the 80-acre site. He says the development could also include a unique water feature surrounded by a cluster of restaurant/entertainment attractions.
"That's something we're really pursuing," he says.
Some local leaders are optimistic that the Alamo City is on the threshold of what could become a historic period of economic prosperity.
A new report provided by Travis Tullos, chairman of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce's Economic Analysis Panel, suggests that San Antonio is headed for important gains in key areas such as employment, housing, retail spending and tourism, among others.
"There's nothing on the horizon in the next 12 to 24 months that would suggest that these trends won't continue," Tullos contends.
Former City Manager Terry Brechtel says this may be a landmark moment for the Alamo City.
"We're knocking on a lot of doors these days," she says. "What is working so well right now is the fact that we have a business community that is working well with local government."
Brechtel adds, "What you are seeing is that on all fronts, people, leaders, are coming together. There is the discovery of San Antonio."
The former pigskin standout believes there is currently a convergence of strengths on multiple fronts that promises to put San Antonio in great growth position. One of those strengths, DeAyala says, is city leaders' willingness to be proactive on the economic front -- a proclamation at which some developers in the past would have laughed.
"It's a great city with a lot of political cooperation right now," DeAyala says. "San Antonio's leadership has done a tremendous job of creating a climate for tourism, job creation, and a quality of life second to none. We see our project as a continuation of this growth and plan to build a high quality, mixed-use development."