San Antonio Business Journal's annual Building San Antonio Awards recognized SouthStar's president, Thad Rutherford as Dealmaker of the Year for 2020. The award recognizes Rutherford's legacy of acquisition and complex approvals to deliver larger scale masterplans in and around San Antonio.
Article reprinted here from the San Antonio Business Journal
Thad Rutherford is determined to finally realize an idea promised by others for more than a decade: a thriving community just north of Texas A&M University-San Antonio’s South Side campus.
Rutherford, president of New Braunfels-based SouthStar Communities, received approval from the San Antonio City Council in November 2019 to acquire a 600-acre parcel off Interstate 410 and South Zarzamora Street for $30 million and create a master-planned development called Vida.
The land was designated as a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone in 2007, when it was owned by Las Vegas-based Verano Land Group LP, to kickstart development on the South Side, meaning that the city would reimburse nearly $220 million in property tax revenue to the developer for public improvements.
Verano Land Group never moved forward on its plans and opted to sell the land in 2018. This followed a long-standing lawsuit against three of its former managing partners surrounding the donation of land to Texas A&M-San Antonio.
SouthStar’s $250 million plan for the 600-acre parcel includes single-family homes, apartments and townhomes — 4,000 total residential units — as well as 300,000 square feet of retail and other commercial space and an expansive trail system connecting the community to the A&M-San Antonio campus. Development is slated to occur throughout the next decade, with completion expected in 2032.
Rutherford is no stranger to the South Side; his development group also owns and operates Mission del Lago, another master-planned community nearby.
For his plan to bring prosperity to the long-dormant property and countless hours sharing the vision with city officials and other partners, Rutherford has been named the 2020 Dealmaker of the Year as part of the Business Journal's Building San Antonio Awards.
“It’s been on the shelf for many, many years, so we stepped in, and we wanted to be a breath of fresh air and get to take on what the South Side of San Antonio needed with regard to a mixed-use project,” Rutherford said. “We wanted to create a realistic execution of a project that continues to tackle affordability and health-conscious communities, and that's what Vida will be.”
Rutherford said the key to winning the city’s support was showing a connection between the development and the neighboring university campus, and that the university remains an essential part of the project’s ideation and execution. His group has incorporated several needs for the school such as student housing and retail into its plans. He said that as the school thrives and grows, the community does the same, and vice versa.
“Even though there’s no obligation on the school of helping us as a private developer or us helping the school, we’re working together to help each other,” Rutherford said. “It’s a different, nuanced layer of partnership.”
Rutherford and his partners were eager to get moving on construction in April or May. But because of the health and economic uncertainties surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, the project is on an indefinite pause while the team reevaluates the crisis's effect on the development and its partners, and prioritizes community support such as donations to the San Antonio Food Bank.
“We’re a real estate developer, but at the end of the day, we engage with our partners in the community that we have developed over a long period of time,” Rutherford said. “That’s important for us, to have relationships. We know some of our residents in every one of our communities. We take that responsibility very seriously.”