ACCD board reaffirms plans for Medical Center campus
Trustees of the Alamo Community College District last week stuck to a controversial decision to build a planned $100 million health campus in the Medical Center, despite pleas from citizens to consider the East and West Sides and Downtown as possible locations for the project.
Citizens who lobbied unsuccessfully for a more urban campus vowed to campaign against the entire $450 million bond issue after the ACCD board reconfirmed its decision to build the campus on the Northwest Side.
According to an ACCD press release, building upgrades are necessary because student enrollment has increased by 41 percent over the past six years, with current enrollment exceeding 50,000 students. An additional 10,000 high school students also could possibly attend ACCD campuses.
If voters approve the $450 million bond issue, $125 million could be used toward constructing a Northeast San Antonio campus; St. Philip's would receive $31 million for improvements, including reconstruction of its health careers classrooms. Other funding includes Northwest Vista, $86.8 million; SAC, $37 million; and Palo Alto, $51.5 million. More than $18 million would be earmarked for information technology infrastructure.
Trustee Gary Beitzel, who originally voted for the Medical Center site, opposed an option that would have allowed more citizens to speak to the board against that plan. "The decision has been made as to where the allied health campus would be located," he said.
Trustee Denver McClendon objected, and asked that the board hear from more citizens before it voted to consider available property in the downtown federally designated empowerment zone. Certain economic development projects in the zone, which includes portions of the East and West Sides, would be eligible for up to $60 million in federally backed low-interest bonds. The ACCD campus, however, wouldn't be eligible for such funds. The board voted against the downtown plan.
Vicente García is the director of the East Side Small Business/Residential Organizing Project, which endorsed building the health campus at or near St. Philip's. "I am flabbergasted that the board would not think of building this campus on the East Side. The area has four major freeways running through it, and you can get there (to St. Philip's) in three minutes. This would be a great economic generator, and would be a center point for all the hospitals in the downtown area."
Nursing and other medical careers students would have as much access to downtown medical facilities as they would at the Medical Center, proponents point out. The central business district includes Baptist Medical Center, Christus Santa Rosa, the Brady/Green clinic, Humana Hospital and the Nix Hospital. The Baptist Hospital District operates its own nursing and health careers institute, but students must take prerequisite courses such as those offered at SAC.
Robert Dawson is a Medical Center area resident who has taught in South Side schools; yet, he endorsed an East Side campus. "The Medical Center is a big, beautiful, functioning part of town, but land has already been purchased around St. Philip's (which could be used for a health careers campus)."
Carla Vela, chairwoman of the Bexar County Democrats, also supports an East Side campus. "The Medical Center area is clogged (with traffic) already. There is no parking downtown. There is a lot of room for growth on the East Side. Put the campus on the East Side and we will campaign for it (the bond election). If it is not going to be on the East Side, then we will campaign against it." •
By Michael Cary