The Nueces County Commissioners have approved selling four more acres of fairgrounds property, while investigating an alternate site for a children's museum at the fairgrounds.
The 4.26 acres approved for sale Nov. 27 is along Terry Shamsie Boulevard and adjacent to 45 acres recently sold to developers who plan on building a $50 million to $65 million outlet mall on fairgrounds property along Business 77.
Precinct 3 County Commissioner Oscar Ortiz, whose precinct includes the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds, said the mall's developers, Dolphin Ventures I, are interested in acquiring the 4.26 acres to add to the land they recently committed to buying.
"If they're interested in bidding on it, that would be one of the people," Ortiz said. "If they wish to purchase it, then yes. There is some interest."
Since Dolphin Ventures wants the 4.26 acres, County Judge Loyd Neal said the county would make other fairgrounds property available to the Education Service Center Region 2 to build a children's museum.
The commissioners on Oct. 31 agreed to sale 45.135 acres of the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds along U.S. Business 77 North to the San Antonio-based mall developers for $2,279,317.50, or at $50,500 per acre.
The outlet mall's developers have estimated the project of 65 to 80 stores would cost $50 million to $65 million to construct. A hotel or motel and numerous restaurants are also part of the retail plans. The private developers are also considering a second phase beyond the 65 to 80 initial retail stores planned.
Construction of the large outlet mall is expected to begin next year.
Ortiz and Neal said they expect the commissioners to award a bid for the additional 4.26 acres this month.
"The court needs to act on this by the end of the year," Neal said.
The process includes obtaining an appraisal of the land and appointing an evaluation committee to analyze the bids. The commissioners court tentatively scheduled a special meeting Dec. 27 to award a bid.
The 4.26 acres approved for sale Nov. 27 is designated on a county survey for the ESC to build a children's museum, but Ortiz said no specific land has been promised to the ESC.
"We never passed anything in court that specified any particular area," Ortiz said. "We have identified an alternative site for the children's museum."
Ortiz said a parcel similar to the 4.26 acres put up for sale Nov. 27 has been suggested for the ESC. That land is near the Wells Fargo bank building, but further east down East Main Avenue.
Ortiz said the only way for the county to transfer ownership of county property to the ESC is through the competitive bidding process. However, Ortiz said another option is to lease property to the ESC for 30 years.
"We can't just give it to any non-profit, it has to be a governmental agency," Ortiz said. "If it's another arm of the government, we can lease it for 30 years, without going through competitive bidding. But whatever they build, at 30 years it reverts to the county."
Ortiz said it was up to the ESC to decide if it would rather bid to own fairgrounds land, or if it would rather lease fairgrounds property from the county.
"We sure would like for them to locate at the fairgrounds, but like everybody else, we have to follow the law," he said.