Want to see the future and current projects that are transforming San Antonio’s central city? Check out this amazing new website that was recently launched. This is a comprehensive list with lots of wonderful information and photos. Thank you for your tremendous effort, Todd Morey and Lorenzo Gomez. Urbantonio.
Tonight was the Grand Opening of the much anticipated Alamo Street Eat ~ Bar. Steve and Jody Newman have transformed the former Acapulco Drive Inn into Southtown’s newest place to see and be seen. Judging by tonight’s crowd it was the place to be on a comfortable April evening. The venue will be open Tuesday through Sunday and will feature a rotating mixture of at least three to four of San Antonio’s finest Food Trucks. And of course it wouldn’t be a proper Southtown hang-out if it didn’t include a good selection of draft beers.
See the photos below for more details:
Robert Rivard, formerly with The Express-News, has launched a new blog devoted to extending the discussion to all things related to San Antonio’s revitalization of our downtown core. Check it out here. You can also sign up to be a contributor.
This op-ed piece was recently posted in The New York Times. I see San Antonio moving in the direction he speaks of with our city, county, and VIA electing to move forward with their light rail plans and also with the continued work of the HemisFair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation as they finish their master plan that will lay out the future renewal of HemisFair.
The Death of the Fringe Suburb
By CHRISTOPHER B. LEINBERGER Published: November 25, 2011 in The New York Times
DRIVE through any number of outer-ring suburbs in America, and you’ll see boarded-up and vacant strip malls, surrounded by vast seas of empty parking spaces. These forlorn monuments to the real estate crash are not going to come back to life, even when the economy recovers. And that’s because the demand for the housing that once supported commercial activity in many exurbs isn’t coming back, either.
By now, nearly five years after the housing crash, most Americans understand that a mortgage meltdown was the catalyst for the Great Recession, facilitated by underregulation of finance and reckless risk-taking. Less understood is the divergence between center cities and inner-ring suburbs on one hand, and the suburban fringe on the other.
I drove down Broadway this morning after having my car washed at The Wash Tub and passed by the start of construction on The Mosaic on Broadway. The Express-News wrote about the project last week. Below is their article.
I’m excited to see even more residential construction along the Broadway corridor. This site is near The Pearl and Sam’s Burger Joint. If VIA moves forward with the Mayor’s suggestion there may soon be a light rail line running from The Pearl down to HemisFair Park. All good things for San Antonio’s growing center city.
More downtown residents expected with Mosaic project
Mixed-use Mosaic will add 120 residential units to growing tally.
By Valentino Lucio
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Drove by the intersection of Cesar Chavez (Durango Blvd) and Labor St this afternoon. This picture shows they are well on their way to hosting tomorrow’s inaugural Farmers’ Market. The event begins at 3pm and goes to 7pm. They plan to have the market every First Friday of each month. This will be a wonderful addition for Lavaca, Southtown, and all of Downtown.
Here’s a link to more information on the event:
If you’re new to my blog or haven’t really been following the recent media about downtown redevelopment this is the perfect article for you. In this week’s Current writer Michael Barajas has written a very strong article defining the key players, the issues, and the history of the push for increased downtown development and revitalization of HemisFair.
I highly recommend reading this very well written and researched article. Thanks for writing it, Michael.
Will efforts to revitalize the city core draw locals back or simply extend the Disneyfication of the River Walk?
By Michael Barajas
Published: July 20, 2011
Justin Arecchi remembers brainstorming with local developers and pioneers like Hap Veltman and downtown jazz staple Jim Cullum for hours at a stretch at the long-since shuttered Kangaroo Court restaurant and bar along the River Walk. A popular topic was how to make downtown world-class, a vibrant place for locals to live, work, and play. Even during those 1970s-era chats, Arecchi and the gang kept returning to one central issue, one that still swirls about today’s discussions as millions in taxpayer dollars pour into another round of planning to revive downtown. “We’d each get on top of our soapboxes to make our pitch,” Arecchi said. “And what was clear is that even back then, we all thought we just needed more people living downtown.”
City Council approves HemisFair Park framework plan
By: Vianna Davila for San Antonio Express-News
Without discussion, the City Council unanimously approved a plan Thursday to revamp HemisFair Park, an effort that would raze part of the city’s convention center, relocate several current park tenants and enhance connections to the East Side.
Council members vetted the plan at a meeting Wednesday, after a presentation by officials and consultants with the HemisFair Park Area Redevelopment Corp., created to oversee redevelopment of the park.
HemisFair Park officials hope a grand opening for the new park could happen by 2018 — the 300th anniversary of the city’s founding, and the 50th anniversary of HemisFair, the event that creation the park.
But the park likely still won’t be complete by that time, said HPark CEO Andres Andujar.
“I think it will take longer to complete the project 100 percent,” Andujar said Wednesday. “There are pieces of the project that are not completely controllable.”
Those include the vacating of the federal courthouse, on the southern edge of the park. The courthouse is scheduled to relocate to the site of the current police headquarters on Nueva Street but the timeline is uncertain. University of Texas at San Antonio representatives also have discussed relocating the Institute of Texan Cultures within HemisFair Park.
So far, slightly less than $21 million has been set aside for HemisFair. Funding for the convention center work has not been secured.
The framework plan is a draft version of a final master plan, which should be complete by September. The city then will start to look more closely at the financial details of making the project a reality, said Pat DiGiovanni, deputy city manger.
Among the financial resources the city has said it could tap into are public-private partnerships and the hotel occupancy tax.
HemisFair could see a major makeover
By: Vianna Davila for San Antonio Express-News
Consultants are proposing an ambitious plan to revitalize HemisFair Park that could include demolishing part of the Convention Center and relocating the Institute of Texan Cultures within the park.
Calling it a framework plan, consultants working with the HemisFair Park Area Redevelopment Corp. presented the proposals to a packed house Tuesday night at Sunset Station. It was the third such public meeting to discuss the future of the 78-acre park, whose redevelopment has become one of Mayor Julián Castro’s top priorities.
Castro could not be reached late Tuesday for comment on the proposal.
The suggested concepts include streetcar lines in and around the park, a marketplace and mixed-use residential areas.
But the night’s most dramatic proposal was the idea to raze the western, older part of the Convention Center, built in 1968, to clear that area for more green space, open up the park to downtown and expose the San Antonio River.
HemisFair today features 15 acres of dedicated parkland, but only 6.9 acres of that actually is used green space, said Andres Andujar, CEO of the HemisFair Park Revitalization Corp.
“I think you need to open up that corner,” said meeting attendee Gregg Moon with the EastWest Design Group, adding that the change will give the Convention Center, which he believes has limited public use, an urban function.
In exchange for removing the older part of the center facing South Alamo Street, with about 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, the center would be extended on its eastern half.
The plan, still in the early concept phase, includes no cost estimate. But it likely would carry a high price. Expansion of the Convention Center in 2001 cost $215 million.
The city has retained Populous, the Convention Center’s architectural planning consulting firm, to work with the city and the HemisFair redevelopment corporation to further explore the idea.
Populous had completed a facilities development study on the possibility of expanding the Convention Center around the same time the HemisFair Park visioning sessions began, said Michael Sawaya, director of the city’s Convention, Sports and Entertainment Facilities Department.
No funding has been identified to either demolish or extend the center, Sawaya said. Officials still need to determine how to achieve an expansion while keeping the Convention Center competitive.
“They’ve (Populous) got to put into place a plan that takes into account the economic impact, of any construction,” Sawaya said.
The plan, as presented Tuesday, also includes relocating the Institute of Texan Cultures to another spot within the park, possibly into a proposed cultural center linked to the Instituto Cultural de México and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, both current HemisFair tenants.
That would mean razing the institute’s current facility, which is part of the University of Texas at San Antonio, according to Andujar. The removal could clear the way for more high density uses in the southeastern portion of the park, said David Alpaugh, with Johnson Fain, the main consultants working with the redevelopment corporation.
Andujar admitted the concepts are controversial. But a representative from UTSA was at Tuesday’s meeting.
“They’ve seen the plan,” Andujar said. “They’re here tonight.”
Jude Valdez, UTSA vice president of community services, said the university is interested in revitalizing the institute and is “very open to some of the ideas.”
“I think we’d consider moving within the park,” Valdez said.
The park was built for the 1968 World’s Fair and counts among its occupants some of the city’s most visited locations, including the Tower of the Americas and the Convention Center.
Despite vigorous efforts to use the space, such as relocating the city’s arts fair, Luminaria, exclusively to HemisFair this year, the park has largely been underutilized.
Over the past several months, the momentum for a renaissance in the park has built rapidly.
But Tuesday’s proposals gave some attendees pause, including former Mayor Lila Cockrell, who raised concerns about the financial undertaking required for the project.
“Overall, I think the concepts, the principles, are very fine,” said Cockrell, whose name is attached to a theater at the Convention Center. “I think it’s just really being realistic about the cost, how we will pay for some of the proposals.”
“We’re looking at some substantial public investment.”
So far, city leaders have cobbled together a little more than $20 million for the park, including $17.6 million in savings from the 2007 bond issue. The HemisFair redevelopment corporation expects to receive money from the 2012 bond issue. Officials also are looking to form public-private partnerships and a nonprofit.
The framework plan presented this week calls for an enhanced grocery store and marketplace that would be a place “where everyone wants to go and not has to go,” Alpaugh said. Water elements that reflect Spanish colonial acequias that once ran through the city also would be incorporated.
Durango and Alamo streets both would be enhanced to become more pedestrian friendly, a concept the HemisFair consultants called “humanizing.” The creation of mixed-use housing and reconnecting to both the East Side and the Lavaca neighborhood to the south, are encouraged.
The plan for streetcars would include a line that runs through the middle of the park, dips under Interstate 37 and connects to the Robert Thompson Transit Center beside the Alamodome.
But like the plan to raze part of the Convention Center, this idea remains conceptual: VIA Metropolitan Transit is studying a plan to bring streetcars to San Antonio, but the money for a complete streetcar line has yet to be secured.
“We are planning as if we controlled all these properties,” Andujar said. That may not be true today, but the corporation is working to see those partnerships happen, he said.
A draft master plan will be presented at the next HemisFair public meeting, which could happen in two to three months, Andujar said.
“It’s a dream, and it’s in our hands to execute,” he said.
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