The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

VIDA unveils Madla Greenway

VIDA unveils Madla Greenway - The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Water resources senior Destiny Guerra and members of VIDA San Antonio and Texas A&M University-San Antonio cut the inaugural ribbon of the Madla Greenway Oct. 11, 2022, west of University Way. The entrance to the trail is about a quarter of a mile north of A&M-San Antonio. Photo by Sergio Medina

VIDA San Antonio, a community hub developed by Southstar Communities, opened a new trail west of University Way on Oct. 11.

One mile in length, the Madla Greenway is part of VIDA’s phase 1 of development, which continues construction of homes in neighboring areas of the trail. 

The trail will be expanded during an already started phase 2 of development, continuing under a creek bridge on University Way, about a quarter mile north of Texas A&M University-San Antonio. The trail will be extended westward, connecting it to the Union Pacific Railway. In total, the trail area will consist of 35 acres.

“We’re (at) about half of that, right now,” said Gretchen Howell, senior vice president of community development at Southstar Communities, which is the community development firm that owns VIDA.

During a breezy and sunny morning, Howell spoke to an audience of about 30 people, which included A&M-San Antonio students and staff, Mitchell Lake Audubon Center members and Southstar Communities representatives. A tour of the trail ended the opening event. 

Gretchen Howell, senior vice president of community development at Southstar Communities, talks about the Madla Greenway acting as a “natural oasis” for the VIDA San Antonio and Texas A&M University-San Antonio communities Oct. 11, 2022, at the Madla Greenway unveiling. Photo by Sergio Medina

“It feels like a lovely natural oasis,” Howell told the audience. “And we knew this spot would be a great place for a trail for you to enjoy, for our residents here at VIDA, for the community to enjoy as part of a great little way to get away into the woods quickly.”

The trail is made of recycled asphalt. It feels softer than concrete upon stepping on it, almost giving it a soil-like consistency.

“It’s a hard enough surface to be accessible, but it’s also soft enough for runners and walkers,” Howell said in an interview preceding the unveiling. “Now, being recycled, it’s porous, which means water moves through it more quickly, which is better for the creekbed.”

Howell said some of the live oaks along the trail, which are visible almost at its entrance, are over 100 years old. Boulders retrieved from phase 1 of VIDA development were repurposed and now act as a sitting area, shaded by one of the oaks near the entrance. VIDA decided to keep most of the flora intact for preservation and authenticity to the ecosystem.

In an interview before the unveiling, Sara Beesley, director at the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center, said her organization has partnered with Southstar to provide interpretative and natural history signage of the trail, which includes wildlife and natural features.

She said biology associate professor Jose Valdez Barillas, who is an advisory board member of Mitchell Lake, helps evaluate the natural habitats.

“We work together a lot,” Beesley said. 

Howell said Southstar has been in partnership with the Department of Life Sciences at A&M-San Antonio to integrate the greenway into its curriculum, providing a living lab for field studies.

“So that curriculum has been out taking soil samples, water samples,” she said. “We’ve really been pleased for them to think about how to use this as part of their curriculum.”

Water resources senior Destiny Guerra was one of the students from the university present at the unveiling. Guerra helped cut the inaugural ribbon, standing center of a group that included Howell, Beesley, and A&M-San Antonio employees Rebecca Viagran, director of Workforce Development and Community Partnerships, and Dr. Jesse Pisors, vice president for University Advancement and External Relations.

According to Southstar’s website, The VIDA community hub has an estimated completion date of 2034. It will comprise 4,000 residential units and gathering and retail spaces. Howell said they are ahead of schedule. 

“The first residents are planned to move in, probably between Thanksgiving and Christmas of this year, so it’s moving ahead very well,” she said. 

Howell said the residential units will include single-family homes, duplexes and townhomes.

Residential homes, which were not existent as early as August, can already be seen between University Way and Zarzamora Street.

Students could also take advantage of the new housing, Howell said, clarifying housing would not be covered through the university’s housing plan, but rates independent to VIDA. These rates are not yet available, she added.

“The University and Southstar have undertaken a new student housing needs analysis that I hope to be complete by the end of this year- that will inform work on additional student housing that may be developed on VIDA,” Howell wrote in a follow-up email Oct. 12.

Howell said part of the planning includes attracting spaces for retail, coffee shops and restaurants. 

The Madla Greenway on Oct. 11, 2022. The trail is made of recycled asphalt. Photo by Amber Esparza

She declined to disclose the amount of money invested on the VIDA developments. 

VIDA also will be involved with future developments of University Health on Jaguar Parkway and Zarzamora Street, Howell said.

“The University Health purchased 68 acres from Southstar to be a part of the VIDA community and the larger community here in the Southside,” Howell said.

At the event, President Cynthia Teniente-Matson told The Mesquite the greenway is an exciting addition, signifying the start of a smart integration between the community at A&M-San Antonio and VIDA. 

Howell said VIDA is a natural progression of Southstar’s history of Southside development.

“We have been building communities in the Southside of San Antonio for about a decade now, and we love working here,” Howell said. “We love being part of the larger Southside community. When the opportunity came up to add to the campus community of Texas A&M-San Antonio, we knew it was just a wonderful opportunity for us to bring our ability to provide trails and varieties of housing, varieties of shops, retail, gathering spaces and to really add that to the campus community.”

About the Author

Sergio Medina
Editor in Chief
Sergio Medina is a journalism senior and editor in chief for The Mesquite at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. He transferred from San Antonio College in December 2021, where he was editor for The Ranger student publication for four years. Sergio’s interest in journalism comes from a love in storytelling consisting of movies, video games, TV series, books and comic books. Upon completing his bachelor’s degree, Sergio aims to join the journalism ranks servicing the San Antonio community.

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