With Steel Dynamics Inc. (SDI) edging ever closer to opening its doors, one issue still looms largely over Sinton – housing.
In general, there is a housing shortage in San Patricio County and Sinton has essentially lain dormant when it comes to growth, but is now poised to see a massive influx of activity.
The Sinton Chamber of Commerce invited two developers for a luncheon where they could talk about two proposed developments coming to town.
Based in Rockport, Matthew Otero and his partners run Amcorp Property Developers LLC and currently own one 40-acre lot and one five-acre lot in Sinton with plans for residential and commercial development in the works.
“We are developers that have rubbed some nickels together and we’re making things happen,” Otero joked. “Sinton is three hours from the fourth largest city in the nation (Houston) and two hours from the seventh largest city in the nation (San Antonio). That’s the top cities in the nation where it’s pretty much a hop and skip away from big industry and all types of development.
“But what’s making a big impact on this little town is the Port. And there is Sinton right in the middle of the triangle of that big demand.”
Otero said investing in Sinton was a no-brainer for Amcorp, especially off US Highway 77 where people looking to travel have easy access to a major highway.
He is also looking at the development cautiously because the future is still a bit uncertain with the pandemic still looming and a new administration taking over the nation’s government.
“There’s some if’s and but’s about what’s going to happen with the highway department and the approach of the housing development with COVID and everything else,” Otero added. “So we’re still in the planning stages, but the five acres we bought, tucked near (US Highway 77), and we know RVs are big in Rockport, so we’re tossing that idea and we’re also testing the idea of doing townhomes.
“Everything that we’re doing is in the planning and development stages but we’re doing it with caution.”
Amcorp is also looking at developing some retail locations on a part of the 40 acres they own.
He said the company is starting off small because they are not a large company but they’re going to do everything step by step and take a very cautious approach because they’re concerned about how they’re going to bounce out of COVID-19 and how the economy will rebound.
Otero said if everything goes according to plan, the best-case-scenario would be some type of housing to be ready in two years.
“We are already developing in Rockport so we know the importance of developing for the community,” Otero said. “So, the development we have in mind is for the community to grow and keep the people here in Sinton.”
Joseph “Wiley” McIlwain of Somerset Land Company took to the podium next with some big residential ideas as well.
Somerset Land Company was developed by Charles E. (Chuck) Cammack and McIlwain to develop properties around the Port of Corpus Christi and other areas as the opportunities exist.
The land he is developing is along US Highway 188 at the State Highway 89 bypass, otherwise known as the four corners area which McIlwain called, “One of the best intersections anywhere in South Texas.”
McIlwain said he came to be part of Sinton’s new residential development by accident. Three years ago, he was at commissioners court talking about another project when he was approached by a San Pat County resident who had about 12,050 acres of land she wanted to develop.
“I told her that I would be interested, but it would take a long time to get things moving forward,” McIlwain said. “She replied, ‘Well don’t worry about that, we have 17 heirs that each own an undivided interest and they live in places ranging from the state of Washington to Ecuador, so it’ll take a little bit of time to do it.’
“I got the first one to sign a contract 18 months ago and the last one to sign 90 days ago.”
He said during that time he had been working with Sinton City Manager John Hobson and Mayor Edward Adams about what to do with the unique property.
“A couple of years ago, when SDI made one of their first appearances, I was there and I talked with them after and I said I wish I could tell you that I was smart enough to buy this land knowing that (SDI) was coming in, but it was the luck of the draw. Just dumb luck,” McIlwain laughed.
He said he began talking about the needs of the city and what could happen in the near future and how to provide affordable housing as well as commercial development. McIlwain said Hobson had some experience in public infrastructure development where bonds could be sold to help offset residential costs. A resolution was passed at a Sinton City Council meeting earlier this year and the public hearing is scheduled for Jan. 19, with a second hearing following two weeks later.
About 90 days after that they should begin to break ground on 177 acres of the northwest corner of the area sometime around May 1.
“It’s going to have residential housing and a bit of commercial retail would also go in there,” he said.
McIlwain added that they plan on offering homes in the $185,000, to $225,000 price range and also have some ideas in place to reduce the price for new residents.
The company also has about 30 acres at the end of Pirate Boulevard where they will extend the roads off Elizabeth Street and build larger homes.
“We’ve been working on an affordable housing lending program through the Texas State Affordable Housing Commission that utilizes loans that can be provided to the first responders, teachers, veterans, all types of police and fire department personnel,” McIlwain added. “That will basically be zero down loans at below FHA rate and have real easy qualifying criteria for our first responders.”
He also said that some of the largest commercial developers in the United States have contacted Somerset Land Company about planning out the future.
McIlwain added that this is not a project that’s going to happen over one, two or five years; it’s a 20-year project and 1,300 acres is a lot of land. The development area also has more than 5 1/2 miles of highway on both sides going through the intersection which would work well for future growth.
“Sinton is poised to, probably more than any other small town in South Texas, really take advantage of the growth in the industry that we’ve had here,” McIlwain said. “All the ingredients are here to develop this and we look forward to doing it over the next few years.”