As Austin, Texas, grows more popular, costly and traffic-packed, more and more home buyers and renters as well as employers have shifted their focus to nearby San Marcos. The historic college town is seen by many as an appealing alternative to the state capital 30 miles up I-35. The shift has transformed San Marcos into one of the nation’s fastest-growing communities. Multifamily will play a vital role in its future.
That’s the word from John David Carson, a San Marcos native, principal at Carson Properties and co-founder of urban design firm Colorspace. In the past decade, Carson has participated in several Central Texas development initiatives, ranging from office and retail to multifamily and mixed-use projects. He’s the developer of The Local, a seven-story, 304-bed student housing community opened in San Marcos in 2017.
Its student population having almost doubled from the 20,000 who attended in year 2000, Texas State University is among engines of San Marcos population growth. It has grown its graduate degree programs, and partners in a 58-acre business incubator that was 100 percent leased on day one in 2012. Many of the start-up ventures are blooming out of the university’s material sciences programs.
“Reasons for the growth go beyond the university,” Carson told MHN. “A lot of it is geography. San Marcos is located halfway between San Antonio and Austin. The San Marcos River is another crown jewel and is a reason the area’s been inhabited for centuries.”
Then there’s the bustling downtown district, its storefronts filled with independently owned shops, eateries and service businesses. “It has a gravity,” Carson observed.
San Marcos has long been known for music—George Strait got his start at an historic honky-tonk called Cheatham Street Warehouse—and is now absorbing an artsy vibe emanating directly from Austin. “There’s an artistic and cultural element beginning that will feed other desirable elements in town,” Carson said.
Several new multifamily projects are underway or planned. One is The Lyndon, named for Texas legend and former president Lyndon B. Johnson, a graduate of the university when it was Southwest Texas State Teachers College. Opening in mid-2019, The Lyndon will provide 233 apartments and 32,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.
Another is Lindsey Hill, to include a blend of apartments and condos, Carson said.
“They’ve gone to great pains to assure the community their target market is not students,” he added. “There’s an unmet demand for new for-sale multifamily housing for empty nesters, step-down buyers and people who want to come back to their old college town. So there’s an emerging market for for-sale units, which currently represent only single-digit percentages of the total multifamily market.”