District wants public-private partnership for Playland

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A central administration building for 450 employees may be built.

By ALMA LINDA MANZANARES

amanzanares6@student.alamo.edu 

The district is looking into another public-private partnership for the development of a central administrative building at Playland Park, 2222 N. Alamo St., John Strybos, associate vice chancellor of facilities operation and construction management, said Tuesday.

Strybos said about 450 district administration and staff are housed at three locations: 811 W. Houston St., 201 W. Sheridan and 7990 Pat Booker Road.

On July 17, 2008, the district gained ownership of the 12.644-acre property from the San Antonio Water System at a cost of $4.13 million.

Strybos said along with the administrative building, he anticipates that there would be a parking garage. “I would expect one if we need parking for 450 employees and to develop the land the correct way,” he said.

Strybos said the development partners also could determine what they want to use the property for, such as apartments or retail.

He said he expects a proposal will be made for the approval to issue a request for qualifications for the public-private partnership at the Building, Grounds and Sites Selection Committee meeting Dec. 4 and the Alamo Colleges regular board meeting Dec. 18.

Strybos said if the proposal is approved, the request for qualifications would be sent out in January. A public and private partnership is the involvement of a private enterprise in the form of management expertise or monetary contributions or both in government projects aimed at public benefit.

Strybos said if the district moves to a central location at Playland, the three properties that currently house district administration and staff would become surplus property that could be sold or redeveloped into apartments.

“What Alamo Colleges’ goal would be will depend on the partners in the public-private partnership,” he said.

At the Sept. 25, 2008, Buildings, Grounds and Sites Selection Committee meeting, Chancellor Bruce Leslie proposed that Playland Park could function as a unified district headquarters and serve as an opportunity to partner with local business and government. Leslie also proposed that the facility could be used to train students in culinary arts and massage therapy.

The estimated $116 million price tag drew objections and criticism from Faculty Senate and the Adjunct Faculty Council at this college, and the proposal was dropped from the board’s December 2008 agenda.

Leslie said in an interview Thursday that in 2008 he was proposing ideas to the Alamo Colleges board of trustees based on his experience as chancellor of Houston Community College System.

“I was saying to the board that we could combine several things in this location and because it’s in the city, it could give greater visibility to some of these programs,” he said.

Leslie said because of such a strong opposition from the faculty, staff and students, “without of thinking of the advantages,” the proposal was dropped. “We even had a student come and say something about ‘Dr. Leslie, the only reason he’s recommending this is because he wants to be able to have a massage and a taco,’” he said.

“There’s a passion here around keeping things where they are and if you change something you’re diminishing the institution, and that’s not true at all. The fundamental issue has got to be what can we do to make the students’ the most full and richest experience that they can possible have,” Leslie said.

Currently, Playland Park provides 650 extra parking spaces to make up for a shortage caused by construction projects that have taken away about 450 parking spaces.

Parking spaces are limited in Lot 16 for remodeling in Moody Learning Center and in Lot 21 as a staging area for expansion of Scobee Planetarium and the Challenger Learning Center. Lots 26, 33 and 31, near Main Avenue and West Evergreen Street, are also closed for construction of a garage and the Tobin Lofts public-private partnership.

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