Travis Park United Methodist Church leaders figured they would be further along by now in the process of redeveloping part of their property downtown at the southwest corner of Navarro and Travis streets.
But 21 months after first issuing a request for interest (RFI) to the development community in hopes a grand idea would materialize, the church has made little progress in determining the future of the portion of its property it would like to redevelop. That area includes three buildings and a parking lot behind the church’s sanctuary.
“What we’ve come to realize is we need to be very specific in what we want and what we think is a solution we think the development community would be interested in joining us in,” said longtime congregation member Brock Curry, who is president of the church’s building committee. “We’re trying to narrow our scope and once we do that, hope that it will be easier for people to come up with solutions that get us there.”
The goal of redeveloping the property, Curry said, is something that would extend the church’s mission and provide revenue for the church’s longevity. The church was founded in 1846 and once was the mother church of a conference that extended from San Angelo to Corpus Christi.
Travis Park United Methodist has taken a significant step in contracting in November with CSG Urban Partners to produce a feasibility study examining the church’s redevelopment options, which include housing.
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., CSG provides advisory services such as strategic planning and project management to nonprofits, churches, and other religious organizations.
Curry said members of the CSG team were in town earlier this month to meet with church and City leaders. The contract with CSG calls for a report to be provided within 60 to 90 days, and Curry said he expects the study to be ready in early March.
“They were able to speak to a bunch of different folks around town and get the pulse of San Antonio and get the pulse of our church and kind of do their initial background research in person by talking to City officials and interested stakeholders outside of Travis Park and within Travis Park,” Curry said.
Curry said the one element that City leaders consistently encouraged and that church leadership has been consistently interested in exploring is housing. He said they are no closer at this point to knowing whether any potential housing project would be aimed at low-income residents, or be workforce or market-rate housing. It could be a mixed-use project as well with some retail added and the church along with its consultant is looking at whether to include parking and how much might be needed, Curry said.
“We’re hoping CSG will help us get our arms around how much parking truly is an issue, particularly as we look down the road 10, 15, 20 years with changing demographics with car ownership and the need for vehicles and parking and all that,” Curry said. “It’s going to be a cost-benefit analysis that we’re going to have to weigh, I think.”
Curry said CSG and church leaders met with representatives for Councilman Robert Trevino (D1), Assistant City Manager Lori Houston, officials from Centro San Antonio, low-income and affordable housing groups, and Lourdes Castro Ramirez, who served as chair of Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s affordable housing task force.
The historic mid-19th century sanctuary building won’t be part of any future redevelopment, and the church has no plan to change its mission of working to help San Antonio’s most vulnerable populations. Corazon Ministries, which was founded at the church in 1999, serves hot meals to homeless and low-income people four days a week as well as offering medical care, clothing, and shower facilities.
The redevelopment process could lead to demolition and new construction, renovations – and possibly taking no action. Any exterior changes to the property will have to be approved by the Historic and Design Review Commission.