Public wants green, open spaces in new development

MISSION — Designs for a new, multi-city residential and commercial development project here remain in progress for Killam Development. At least, that was the takeaway Friday during the last of a series of workshops that were open to the public, allowing locals to offer their input for their hope and vision for the land.

Last month, the Laredo-based company purchased 3,400 acres of land that stretches over South Mission and McAllen — covering the Anzalduas International Bridge and Sharyland Plantation region. Their ideas include neighborhoods with homes starting at $140,000, walking and biking trails, entertainment districts and educational spaces.

Considering the closeness to the border, developers also have plans of building industrial warehouses and other cross-border trade related opportunities nearby.

But before proceeding with their blueprint for the land, they reached out to locals for what they anticipate for it. Over 380 people and about 100 high school students have participated in one of the 15 total workshops hosted at the Mission Center for Education and Economic Development.

At the door of the event, attendees were given a clicker that would be used to get immediate polls of their opinions of the course of the project. At the end of the evening, the question, “Is the plan on the right track?” was posted, and 80% of attendees voted “I love it,” 17% said “I can’t tell yet. The rest said no.

“So that means we have a lot of work to do. There are more conversations to have, some convincing, some redraw, get the details right.” said Jason King, a representative of Dover Kohl & Partners Town Planning, who are consulting on the development project.

What did people have to say? They wanted more greenscapes, open spaces and places to socialize.

Some written answers on a poster hung on the wall of the lobby wall that asked, “What do you want to see / Have more of in your future?” included shaded playgrounds, murals, sports parks and more nature centers.

Other, more specific answers included a cat cafe, waffle house and Six Flags.

“ Six Flags appeared a lot, like, a lot,” King said.

The presentation showcased a draft of the design of the area, showing where neighborhoods would be, and their distance to schools; walkability to shopping centers; pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.

A canal cuts through the land, and their plan is to make a walking trail next to it.

King added that he noticed that maintaining the greenery of the area was important to locals.

“We had a very contentious and heated discussion on trees,” he said, drawing a chuckle from the audience of about 80. “Everyone in town has their favorite tree and a whole bunch of trees they don’t want to see.”

The list of trees that developers are planning to have around the estate include mesquite, guamuchil and oak.

“We took your ideas — ideas from the public — and took it to elected leaders, appointed officials and department of transportation representatives, educators, congressional representatives.”

King added that he was surprised by the importance of interconnection between the cities.

“I thought it was really interesting to see how people were talking about connecting to Mission, connecting to Madero,” he said. “Not a wall or barriers. An actual continuation of the historic communities that are here.”

Another request collected from the public was for variation. Apartment complexes, townhomes and homes for single families are all in the plan. Open spaces will be used for parks with gazebos, trails and picnic areas.

Developers also said that locals voiced that they would prefer that open land be used for community farms rather than golf courses.

“ Now this is just our first conversation, and this is just a week’s worth of work,” King said.

[email protected]