Graffiti App created for City of San Antonio

Below is a press release sent out today describing the new app created on Android to allow for real-time and geo-specific reporting of graffiti sites in and around San Antonio. I just downloaded it for my HTC Incredible and will be testing it out very soon around Southtown. Together we can all help eliminate graffiti. (The iPhone app will be out in about six weeks.)

Release Date: February 18, 2011
City of San Antonio Communications Office: 207-7234
Now reporting graffiti is just an app away

Reporting graffiti in San Antonio just got a touch easier. The City’s Graffiti Abatement Program has teamed up with to create “mySanAntonioTX” smart phone application that will allow residents with Android phones to send real time graffiti information and photos to the department.

Android users can download the “mySanAntonioTX” application for free from the Android Market. Once installed, users simply open the application and follow the prompts to take a picture of the graffiti and then submit the information. Using a built-in global positioning system the application will attach a location to the picture and send the information to the Graffiti Abatement Program. The electronic submissions will then be routed to the appropriate City staff or outside agency. Residents can also choose to receive updates on the status of their request.

“This program will give many residents a new and more efficient way to inform the City about graffiti issues,” said David D. Garza, director, Code Enforcement Services Department. “By making the complaint identification process more convenient, we will be able to rid our neighborhoods of the blight even faster.”

The “mySanAntonioTX” application was created at no cost to the City. develops Smartphone apps with web interfaces for government and private industry customers throughout the United States.

Residents with iPhones are expected to be able to obtain the “mySanAntonioTX” within the next six weeks. For more information on this new program, call Lisa McKenzie, graffiti abatement coordinator, Code Enforcement Services Department at 207-5430.

A Tip for Better Google Searching

I read this recently on a blog I follow by Scott Levitt of Oakley Signs & Graphics.

Use This Magic Word When Googling for Tech Support

Adding one word to your Google searches will help find solutions faster.
The next time you’re pulling your hair out over a technical support issue, you might want to try this simple trick to help you find real answers to the problem you’re experiencing:
Add “solved” to your search query. Rather than just describe your problem, i.e. “Outlook won’t sync to my Droid smartphone,” try adding +SOLVED to the end of the search. Many tech support message boards use “[SOLVED]” to close threads on technical support issues.
One other trick is to use ~solved instead of +solved. Using the “~” (the tilde) tells Google to not only look for “solved,” but also synonyms for solved, such as “fixed,” “resolved,” etc.
Getting great results from Google is usually a matter of writing better queries.

Here’s a helpful article on ways to improve your search skills, straight from Google:

Austin Modern Home Tour – This weekend!

I’m so excited to be attending my first Austin Modern Home Tour this Saturday. I’m hoping the temperatures warm up for it!
They’ve set up a great website with a preview of all the homes on the tour.

I’ll be sure to take lots of photos and post them up later.

Let me know if anyone wants to ride up with me on Saturday.

One step closer to SAISD/City of San Antonio land swap

This was reported last week by San Antonio Express-News writer Josh Bauch. It is a follow-up to the article I previously posted.

Council eyes $5.68 million purchase of East Side building

The City Council on Thursday approved a plan that could lead to the purchase of the Friedrich Building, a former refrigerator factory on the East Side, as part of a larger land-swap deal with the San Antonio Independent School District.

The council voted 9-2 to enter into an option contract with the seller, Friedrich Lofts Ltd. The city negotiated a purchase price of $5.68 million for the building. The six-month option period will cost $100,000 and give the city exclusive rights to buy the structure.

If the city buys the Friedrich Building, it would trade it for several other properties owned by SAISD, including its headquarters property on Lavaca Street, south of HemisFair Park.

Councilmen Reed Williams and John Clamp voted against the initiative.

Councilwoman Ivy Taylor told her colleagues it could be a catalytic project that has the potential of revitalizing the East Side.

City, SAISD may trade land

This story was posted about four months ago in the San Antonio Express-News and I forgot to include it in my blog.

City officials say they are pressing a plan to acquire the Friedrich Building, a cavernous structure that’s haunted the East Side for years, renovate it and move the San Antonio Independent School District’s headquarters to the site.

City officials say they are pressing a plan to acquire the Friedrich Building, a cavernous structure that’s haunted the East Side for years, renovate it and move the San Antonio Independent School District’s headquarters to the site.

The preliminary cost estimate for the city is $40 million.

“This would have tremendous significance for the East Side,” said Deputy City Manager Pat DiGiovanni, the deal’s architect.

Under the proposal, the school district would get title to the property. In return, the city would take ownership of the SAISD’s current headquarters at 141 Lavaca St., across Durango Boulevard from HemisFair Park, and several other properties.

If the City Council and SAISD trustees ultimately approve the swap, it would result in hundreds of school district employees moving to the East Commerce Street location, a former refrigerator factory that currently has only a handful of tenants and widely is seen as a deterrent to development in the area.

It also would allow school officials to centralize the district’s administrative offices.

“It looks like the school district needs about 250,000 square feet of space,” DiGiovanni said. “It would be a renovation of most of the building, facade improvements, environmental cleanup, if there’s any needed, and the acquisition itself.”

SAISD Superintendent Robert Durón said trustees wouldn’t take up the proposal until after the district’s $515 million bond election in November.

“We don’t want to mix our message as far as the bond,” he said.

Durón spoke favorably of the potential land swap, which won’t show up as a project in the bond issue.

“We see this as an opportunity to drive even more opportunity into our district. We could consolidate a lot of our central office facilities – we’re pretty spread out,” he said. “If it could work in developing economic development downtown, that certainly benefits the district, too.”

The assessed value of the district’s Lavaca headquarters – housed in a historic building – and the 4-acre site is $6.9 million, according to the Bexar Appraisal District.

Downtown grocery store

One idea under discussion for the site, if the deal’s consummated, is a downtown grocery store – despite serious questions about the viability of such an operation.

“There are no definitive plans, but a grocery store sounds good to me,” DiGiovanni said. “It’s a great site, it’s a great corner. But whether or not it could work for that is up in the air at this point in time.”

Mayor Julián Castro has staked out the placement of a grocery store to cater to downtown residents as one of his center-city development priorities.

Madison Smith, a principal at Overland Partners and president of the HemisFair Park Area Local Government Corp. said the master planning for HemisFair, which starts in October, will extend to the school district’s property. But it also will include other land adjacent to HemisFair in the hopes of influencing future development or design.

Smith said a grocery store is a likely discussion point in any HemisFair conversation.

“The charge is creating a vibrant, mixed-use living, working and playing environment,” Smith said. “You don’t have a living environment without the ability to go get food. I can’t imagine a grocery store not being a part of the conversation.”

Former Mayor Henry Cisneros has been discussing the development of a grocery store with H-E-B officials, city leaders and other potential developers – though he notes there are, for now, too few downtown dwellers to sustain a full-size operation.

“The present base of downtown is about 15,000 people living within a mile of the center of the downtown,” he said. “A substantial, normal-size H-E-B, for example, would require about 30,000.”

He said Charles Butt, chairman and CEO of H-E-B, and his management team “share the goal of wanting to be downtown.” However, an H-E-B spokeswoman declined to comment about the downtown grocery concept.

Cisneros said he’s not a potential investor in such a venture, though he didn’t rule out a future stake.

“At this point at least I’m not in a financially involved role – I’m just doing everything I can as a civic leader to support the process going forward,” he said.

Memo of understanding

SAISD’s board of trustees and the City Council were briefed on the proposed land swap in executive sessions last month; neither took action. DiGiovanni said they’ll both take up a nonbinding memorandum of understanding – which will establish a framework for a land swap – later this month.

Meanwhile, the city is negotiating an option agreement with the Friedrich Building’s owners, a pact that would allow the city to acquire the property within six months. DiGiovanni said the agreement could go to the City Council in October if council members and SAISD trustees support the plan.

Eugene Simor, a partner in the Friedrich Building, declined to comment on the negotiations.

If the deal is OK’d, DiGiovanni said the city could pay for the acquisition and renovation of the building through a combination of sources, including certificates of obligation and tax-increment financing. But the project likely wouldn’t turn up as a line item in the city’s anticipated bond election in 2012.

He said the proposed property shuffle grew out of a series of East Side community meetings, organized by Castro and Councilwoman Ivy Taylor and launched a year ago, to focus economic development efforts in an area that’s seen few new businesses and jobs move in.

“The East Side summit set the direction,” DiGiovanni said. “The community said it wanted the Friedrich Building revitalized.”

The current owners’ plan to turn the abandoned factory floors into retail and office space and residential lofts has gone almost nowhere since they hatched it in 1999.

If the city and school district approve the swap, the existing office tenants will face an uncertain future.

“They have leases, and we’ll have to evaluate the leases and then decide from there what happens,” DiGiovanni said.

Pearl Brewery is expanding its footprint

Not only will they be expanding their footprint but they will be helping transform the Tobin Hill neighborhood by ridding them of some troublesome businesses.

Owner of Pearl Brewery buying up land across river
By Valentino Lucio – San Antonio Express-News

Pearl Brewery

Pearl Properties

The future of the Pearl Brewery looks brighter — and bigger. Silver Ventures, the owner of the historic brewery, confirmed it is cobbling together about 5 acres of land across from the 22-acre site and along the San Antonio River to possibly expand the urban village.

Currently, Silver Ventures is under contract to buy the nearby Alamo Lodge, an inexpensive motel that the city has been trying to shut down because of extensive criminal activity. It also recently purchased the next-door site of the former SWC Club, once a nightclub and now a boarded-up building. And, since 2008, it has owned an adjacent property that Oak Farms Dairy occupies.

Darryl Byrd, managing director of the Pearl, said that so far, there is not a plan for those properties, but that Silver Ventures is investing there because the area has potential.

“Right now there’s no timeline,” Byrd said. “But we’re looking at projects that are very positive for the neighborhood and the city. (Tobin Hill) is a neighborhood of great promise, with a great upside and a great future.”

Byrd did say that Silver Ventures is looking into developing a boutique hotel at the Pearl, but that right now nothing is in the works. Silver Ventures is working this year to develop more restaurants and apartment units, eventually adding a few hundred more residents to the Pearl, he said.

Also, a 1,000-seat riverfront amphitheater is expected to be complete this month. Byrd would not expand on how that space would be used once open.

In total, the three new riverfront properties include seven parcels that Silver Ventures can use for redevelopment. It wasn’t disclosed if the existing structures on each property will stay or be demolished. Byrd wouldn’t disclose the sales prices of the properties, but they had a Bexar Appraisal District value in 2010 of more than $3 million total.

For the past two years, Silver Ventures has owned the 1.6-acre Oak Farms Dairy site across the river from La Gloria Ice House in the Pearl. The dairy currently rents the property and uses it to store company vehicles.

The largest property is the Alamo Lodge, made up of five parcels. Tenants there were told in December they would have to move out by Feb. 15 because the motel would be closing.

The motel for years has been riddled with crime. Some tenants said drug deals and fights are common there, prompting the police to visit the area often.

The city filed a lawsuit against the property’s owners last year in an attempt to clean up the motel. The lawsuit cites various criminal offenses, including homicide and drug violations. The lawsuit is ongoing and the owners of the Alamo Lodge were not available for comment.

Last week, Silver Ventures acquired the SWC Club, which is closed for business. The club also had a controversial past, which includes various assaults and the shooting death of 33-year-old Jesse Quintero in May 2007. The club’s previous owner was not available for comment and it was unclear why the property was sold.

“I have watched the River North area begin to transform into a bustling community that is uplifted by this kind of urban redevelopment and look forward to seeing more projects like this enhance our downtown area,” said District 1 Councilwoman Mary Alice Cisneros, whose district includes the Pearl.

“The city of San Antonio has been committed to working with the private sector to help revitalize our city’s urban core,” Cisneros said.

Staff Writer Brian Chasnoff contributed to this report.