The venue for a long proposed Catholic high school at the La Sienna development project in north Edinburg has been relocated, according to school representatives.

The Board of Trustees for San Juan Diego Regional Academy, the non-profit Catholic high school affiliated with the Diocese of Brownsville, has accepted $1 million pledged by Bishop Daniel Flores for the renovation, rather than construction of a new facility.   

The new school will now be located on the historic grounds of La Lomita Chapel in Mission, on the former the site of St. Joseph and St. Peter's Seminary. The school is scheduled to open by fall 2011.

"The bottom pretty much fell out of the economy, and it was really difficult for the Board, and the folks who were working to promote the school to secure the funding needed to build the school from scratch, it was very tough sweating" said Bob Schmidt, principal for the upcoming high school, acting as the Board's spokesperson.

Funds collected for the school were not nearly enough to cover the estimated $3 million for the first phase of construction in Edinburg, according to Schmidt.

"It just made more sense for the Board to accept the Bishop's offer, especially in light of the fact that there are buildings ready there (in Mission), pending renovation, that would be ready to host the school by next August," he said. "All those factors really made it too good to pass up, in terms of moving the school to Mission…it's church land, and the buildings are there to get the school started, much quicker than it would have taken at the Edinburg site."

The land for the former high school has now been put back into an 800 acre master plan. The school's relocation now opens up 60 acres for commercial development at the site located adjacent to the Flying J area, according to developers at La Sienna.

"The Burns Brothers, who are the developers, master-planned this community four years ago, and we have continued to construct all the infrastructure of the subdivisions, and all initial planning items," said Todd Gilliland, project manager for La Sienna

"The school moving out has not impacted the plans since there never really was a high school, (and) I don't think anyone moved there just for the high school," Gilliland said. "What we realize, is that we want to create a residential demographic there that will entice the right kind of commercial developers to look into locating there at La Sienna."

Billed as Edinburg's first "master-planned" community, and the City's answer to the Sharyland Plantation project in south Mission, officials predicted as much as $500 million in private investment from development when it began in 2006, according to the EDC.

The suburban plan, which would include homes, commercial business, work, educational and community facilities would be located on a 700-acre mixed use development project on Monte Cristo and Highway 281.

Since that time, the first residential phase for La Sienna has sold out, according to developers. About 40 homes have been built and sold within the last 18 months. There are currently about 60 homes built among the two subdivisions located on the development site. Valencia is comprised of homes within the $150,000 to $250,000 range. The Coves subdivision is comprised of homes in the $250s, according to developers.

"Kent Burns is the driving force behind La Sienna, and his vision is to bring a class-A residential and commercial project to north Edinburg," Gilliland said. "We feel, in spite of the economy, our plans go on right as scheduled."

Economic development officials say the project will help attract people to the industrial properties currently being marketed by the EDC. The location may be particularly attractive to investors anticipating rapid development as a result of the upcoming Santana Textiles facility, according to Pedro Salazar, EDC. executive director 

"They are going to provide an environment that might be consistent with what these investors from Mexico are looking for," Salazar said. "It will enhance our ability to promote Santana on the northside (and) think it's going to be a critical component of what we do up on the north side because, as companies come in, especially out of the area, the first thing they look for is whether they can live close by."