By Rachel Stone, Express-News Business Writer
When Edward Jones financial adviser Kam Emerson moved to the Leon Springs area a few years ago, she noticed something missing.
The little community of homes and businesses, which the City of San Antonio annexed in 1999, had no chamber of commerce. There was no business networking club and no community organization.
So Emerson and a group of business colleagues decided to band together to form a unified voice to address the area's growing pains. They started the Leon Springs Business Association one year ago.
"To me, we're kind of the stepchild of San Antonio," she said.
Leon Springs is just on the edge of City Council District 8, and most people don't even realize that Leon Springs is part of San Antonio, she said.
"We keep sprawling and spreading, and that causes problems with transportation," Emerson added.
The eight founding members meet each Monday morning to plan and to talk about things going on in the community.
Once a month, they invite the business community to a happy hour. The social meeting usually features speakers such as liaisons from the Texas Department of Transportation. Last month, District 8 City Council member Art Hall made an appearance.
As usual, traffic was the main topic.
"There's a lot of development going on out there, and the Texas Department of Transportation is $266 million short on funding," Hall said. "That's because of cost
increases. Projects are becoming more expensive because of the cost of cement and steel and labor and things like that."
The business association is working to create public awareness among the residents of Leon Springs and a voice for business owners, Emerson said.
Until a few years ago, Leon Springs was the quiet intersection of a farming community best known for the original Rudy's "Country Store" and Bar-B-Q. But it's quickly becoming an epicenter of commercial development in Bexar County.
For example, the Weitzman Group, which owns a 40-acre tract at Interstate 10 and Boerne Stage Road, plans to develop the acreage soon, perhaps building a retail center.
A mixed-use development called Rialto Village is planned for Interstate 10 and Ralph Fair Road. It's being developed by a partnership that includes entrepreneur Dale Schuparra and builders Charles Untermeyer and Daniel Van de Walle. The project, which is still in the design phase, will include 30 or 35 townhomes and retail and office space.
Developer George Atallah has started construction on One Dominion Place, a 22-building business park near the Dominion subdivision. The development also will include shops and restaurants.
And Post Oak Development recently announced Cresta Bella, a 400-acre mixed-use project near Interstate 10 and Camp Bullis Road.
Those are just a few of the major projects slated for the Leon Springs area.
They'll join nearby retail giant The Rim, which comprises 900,000 square feet of retail space and restaurants and Santikos Theaters' 80,000-square-foot Palladium.
Also nearby is the Shops at La Cantera, which comprises 1,700 acres of restaurants and shops, including such luxury names as Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.
"The biggest issue right now is traffic — roads and traffic," Emerson said.
An overpass to connect the Dominion to the eastbound side of Interstate 10 is under construction and could be completed in a year or two. A traffic light recently went in at Interstate 10 and Camp Bullis Road. And a U-turn lane is planned to help alleviate staggering backups near Interstate 10 and Boerne Stage Road.
Many in the business association think I-10 ought to get a significant expansion.
"It's obvious there's a lot of high-profile growth out here, but I-10 is not going to be able to keep up with it," said Mike Taylor, president of Connect Communications and a founding member of the business association.
But unprecedented growth is a good problem to have, even when it does cause nasty traffic snarls, said Carolyn Hegranes, a real estate agent with Prudential Classic Realty, who's been in the business for 35 years.
"In all these years, this is the most exciting time to be in real estate," she said.