Brooks, a former Air Force base in Southeast San Antonio, was a military base for nearly 100 years until the Brooks Development Authority took over the property 20 years ago. Since then, Brooks has been redeveloped into a live, learn, work and play community – and it’s all 10 minutes south of downtown San Antonio.
We sat down with Brooks’ President & CEO, Leo Gomez, to find out more about the 1,308-acre mixed-use community.
Tell us a little bit about Brooks and their presence in the San Antonio region.
Brooks is a former Air Force base in Southeast San Antonio, operational for nearly 100 years until the Brooks Development Authority took over the property 20 years ago. The Air Force didn’t leave completely until about 11 years ago in 2011. Within the last 10 years, the redevelopment of the property has really taken off.
Brooks has been redeveloped into a live, learn, work and play community – and it’s all 10 minutes south of downtown San Antonio.
Having been part of the San Antonio community for 20 years, what keeps Brooks growing in San Antonio?
The vision is to develop into a community that is successful beyond our boundaries. This quadrant of San Antonio, the Brooks region, if you will, has had neighborhoods with poverty levels in excess of 20% for decades. What keeps us growing is that vision to not only redevelop the former base property but to redevelop it in a way that creates prosperity, opportunity, and success for the families and neighborhoods that surround the former military base.
We are increasing the number of Brooks Believers, and that’s not only residents, its investors, its developers, its customers, its visitors and more.
How has your mixed-use community evolved since the pandemic?
We didn’t skip a beat. We had one of our most successful years ever, right in the midst of the pandemic, even with our team here working remotely most of the time, if not all. And we’re getting ready to have an even better year after this year. I keep pinching myself, but on the other hand, we have a vision that’s well supported by numerous stakeholders. We have a great team in terms of our staff here at Brooks that’s working to implement that vision. We are going to have well over one million square feet under construction within the next couple of months. And we had hundreds of millions of construction activities occurring during the pandemic.
Right now we have over 55,000 square feet of restaurant space under development. That’s about 11 new restaurants preparing to open and they were started in the midst of the pandemic. The momentum continues, it’s pretty incredible.
Can you tell us a bit about some of the recent announcements on the Brooks campus?
We completed the Cuisine Solutions plant, the world’s largest sous-vide facility, in the midst of the pandemic. We welcomed another French-based company referred to us by Cuisine Solutions, Bakerly, which will be opening next calendar year and creating another 200 jobs here at Brooks to begin their North American operations.
By way of new development, we recently broke ground on the first class A-commercial office building at Brooks, and in fact the first class-A commercial office building south of downtown. We’re building two 100,000 square-foot buildings to attract new office tenants to our growing campus.
We also are about to embark on an 800,000 square foot light industrial facility on a spec basis. And the good news in that is we have investors and a developer that believe in Brooks and they’re willing to move forward with these investments and these developments on a spec basis, understanding the momentum that we have here.
We also started the redevelopment of the residential housing where Military officers once lived, built in the fifties and sixties. We’re building a brand new 450-unit neighborhood on that same property which will be available for rent. We also announced the first residential development for single-family purchasing, single-family homes for sale for purchase, being built on the Green Line Park or immediately adjacent to the Green Line Park. That’ll be the first 63 units or so of homes, brand new homes built that are available for people to purchase.
In addition to that, we have two apartment communities in development on top of the four already here. There are about 2,300 people living here today, mostly in our apartment community. But within the next few years, we’ll add another thousand residents, maybe two, as we build these residential opportunities along with the jobs that are being created, along with the restaurants that are coming to Brooks’ surrounding our Embassy Suites hotel.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’d like to share more about the Brooks Regional Center, our geographic area as defined by the City of San Antonio. Our regional center is about 7,000 acres in terms of geography with a population that has grown by nearly 15% in the last 10 years. I’m excited to share that the household income for this region over the last 10 years has grown further, by over 28%.
I feel proud of the work our team does that, at least indirectly, if not directly, has helped to spur additional growth and opportunities for the residents in our surrounding area.
Another measure that I’m really excited about is that high school students, the high school graduation rate in the Brooks Regional Center is now over 80%, up from 73% 10 years ago. These measures are those we’re looking at as we redevelop the Brooks to ensure we aren’t developing an island of prosperity in Southeast San Antonio, but redeveloping the former base in a way that brings an opportunity to the families and neighborhoods around us.
I don’t think we could do or have done what we’ve done out here without the infrastructure and our partnership with greater:SATX. Without the appropriate roads and utilities, you don’t have land for development. The investment in infrastructure by both the City and the County as well as potentially the state and federal government that are to come, it has been incredible out here. For example, we just opened one road in our light industrial park. That was a $10 million project from the bond package from over five years ago. Today, it has two major employers on both sides.
The City, County, public investment, the infrastructure of Brooks has really put us in a position to attract development that we’ve attracted out here. As for our partnership with greater:SATX, our international recruitment trips have led to major investments in our region. Building our relationship with Japan led to Toyota and its onsite suppliers becoming a major presence not just for our area, but for the state as a whole. For Brooks, it’s represented in Nissei Plastics. The Japanese company made their major North American investment at Brooks, then made the decision to move their North American headquarters from California here to Brooks as well.
We believe in our continued partnership with greater:SATX. Companies from all across the world were leads from greater:SATX and they thought Brooks was among the right communities in San Antonio for them to consider.
Today, they’re all here.
Today, they’ve all created jobs and they’re providing incomes for families in this region.Learn more about Brooks at www.livebrooks.com.