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Bexar County Commissioners hear update on historic capital improvement program, Continental Hotel project

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Conceptual rendition of the proposed high-rise project

Bexar County Commissioners on Tuesday received an update on the county's historic $690 million capital improvements program.

It was approved by commissioners in September and the improvements are scheduled over the next 10 years. County officials are calling the program "the biggest in a generation."

The projects include areas related to transportation, creeks and trails, and parks and facilities.

Tony Canez, who oversees the county community venues program, told commissioners the projects are now prioritized in each county precinct following meetings with each commissioner of those precincts.

"There are total of 120 individual projects that are intended to stimulate the local economy, address the fantastic growth within the county, and help be a catalyst for transformational change for the community," he said.

The projects all appear on a master schedule that the public can soon follow online as the Bexar County Capital Improvements program.

Commissioners also discussed and approved of the $2.2 billion University Health budget. Its CEO, George Hernandez Jr., told commissioners UH has administered 575,000 vaccines and boosters during the pandemic, primarily through its site at Wonderland Mall.

He said UH is developing properties next to Texas A&M San Antonio on the South Side, near Retama Park on the North Side, and near Westover Hills on the far West Sides for future hospitals.

Hernandez said there are plans for the coming year to expand their hospital at home program to free up beds at University Hospital.

He said a new medical tower for women and children is on schedule to be open in 2023. Only 21% of the UH budget is financed with property taxes.

In other action, commissioners heard an update this week on the $80 million plan for the century-old Continental Hotel. The project on West Commerce will preserve the hotel's façade and add a modern high rise.

The project is among the first approved by the county's public facility corporation. Weston Urban will develop the project that will include 250 living units. The county will then lease it back to the developer over a period of 75 years.

Weston Urban Vice President Mark Jensen said the project will bring vibrancy back to a long-neglected area of downtown.

"We couldn't be more excited about this particular block and what UTSA's expansion is doing for this component of downtown, for the neighborhood and for city," he said.

Jensen said construction could start no later than the second quarter of next year. UTSA is adding nearby cybersecurity and business classrooms so students may make up the majority of its tenants. Half the units will be affordable through income adjustments.

Commissioners this week also approved the county's first-ever paid paternity leave policy. County employees, both women and men, can now receive eight weeks paid leave after the birth or the adoption of a child. County Commissioner Trish DeBerry pushed to codify the policy approved by commissioners.

"Considering work-life balance and the number of women that work for the county that we have a codified policy in place where women and men can take off if they adopt or give birth," DeBerry said.

County Manager David Smith said in the past, county workers would use accumulated comp time to take off from work for new additions to a family.

Bexar County Commissioners welcomed the UTSA head football coach and players to their Tuesday meeting to congratulate them on a historic season. The Roadrunners had a near perfect season, were nationally ranked for the first time and recently won the Conference USA Championship.

Commissioner DeBerry led a round of applause.

The team's coach Jeff Traylor thanked commissioners for their support.

"What all y'all have done for us, the city, has just been electric and our players feel it," he said.

UTSA's only loss of the season came against the University of North Texas in a rainy road game, their final regular season game.

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Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian