Beyond speculation

"Texas A&M would be positive for the South Side," says Alfred Campos, proprietor of Nick's Auto Parts, a 50-year-old auto salvage business founded by his grandfather. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

City, land developers swooping into South Side's Alameda neighborhood

A 2003 announcement that a Toyota manufacturing plant was headed to San Antonio signaled that major changes were coming to the City's South Side. Shortly afterward, Mayor Ed Garza proclaimed he would create a South Side Shangri-La, complete with an emerald-encrusted river, sparkling pedestrian pathways, and rays of sunshine in every South Side family's living room.

Ta dah! Welcome to City South, which features a proposed Texas A&M University campus on 400 acres at the southwest corner of Roosevelt Avenue and Loop 410. To make way, the City only has to clear out a few undesirable landowners who have done nothing to maintain their streets, build curbs and sidewalks, or install gas lines.

Gibberish? Hardly. The San Antonio Express-News recently reported that the City plans to spend $13 million to buy private properties in the Alameda neighborhood, which comprises at least three residential streets and several businesses along Roosevelt Avenue. Some residents and business owners are fine with that, provided the City pays fair market value for the properties without taking the land through its right of eminent domain.

"Texas A&M would be positive for the South Side," says Alfred Campos, proprietor of Nick's Auto Parts, an auto salvage business that his grandfather, Esequial, founded in 1949 on 10 acres along Roosevelt Avenue, just south of Loop 410, which did not exist 50 years ago. "It is not that we want to move, but if we get a good offer from the City, we can live with it, as long as it is fair market value."

The City, however, is not revealing its plans for Alameda, and has provided little information about the impact of Terramark Communities, a large real estate developer, on future development south of Loop 410.

The Sugar Land-based Terramark has purchased approximately 3,000 acres that lie adjacent to the proposed Texas A&M site. So far, Terramark and its subsidiaries haven't presented plans to the City for developing the property.

(Terramark management includes Charles H. Turner, Joel R. Scott, Michael Van, Shawn Regan, and Richard C. Shaver. Scott donated $1,000 to Mayor Garza's campaign in 2004.)

But someone on the South Side has been making trouble, says a business owner who asked to remain anonymous, since late January when property owners received a letter from the City that apprised them of pending appraisals in their neighborhood.

It's not one, but two people who are stirring up the neighbors: Real estate agent Altan Kartaltepe and his brother Ty Kartaltepe.

Altan Kartaltepe is selling a couple of residential properties as "commercial," despite the City's advice not to sell any property located near the proposed Texas A&M.

Kartaltepe says it's legal for a property owner to sell before the City makes an offer. "Suppose they wanted to move anyway and not hang around, waiting for the City to make up their mind. Should they (the City) force the resident to stay on their property for another two years?"

Kartaltepe explains that it could be more lucrative for property owners to sell their homes to establish a record of similar property values, a factor the City uses in its appraisals. If no property has sold recently in the area, there are few comparisons. Kartaltepe says that owners could get short-changed on the City's offer.

It is ironic, says Kartaltepe, that while the South Side is attracting attention through Toyota and other economic developments, Alameda neighborhood residents are getting kicked to the curb (if there were one). The City neglected to adequately maintain roads, build sidewalks, or provide adequate electrical and gas lines; likewise, some of the poorer property owners on the South Side couldn't afford to clean up old cars and other junk on their property. Previously, the City looked the other way; now that Toyota and Texas A&M are coming, there's talk about code compliance cracking down in the Alameda neighborhood.

Ty Kartaltepe is a property investor who has formed the City South Property Owners Association. In some circles, Ty says, "I'm that crazy guy" who is agitating neighbors at Tuesday night meetings at the Villa Coronado Park Community Center.

But he says he's just fighting on behalf of property owners to command a fair price for their land. "My purpose is to go to these people and tell them the City wants to pay rural prices on urban property," he says. "City South might be a label to the rest of the City, but there are real people here, with real lives and livelihoods."

By Michael Cary

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