Alamo Heights Vote All About Broadway Corridor

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Lion's Field Adult and Senior Center is an early voting location for Alamo Heights residents. The adjacent Lion's Field Park is dotted with campaign signs for local candidates. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Iris Dimmick / Rivard Report

Lion's Field Adult and Senior Center is an early voting location for Alamo Heights residents. The adjacent Lion's Field Park is dotted with campaign signs for local candidates.

Dear Neighbors,

In the spirit of an “old-fashioned community discussion,” I hope you don’t mind that I am sharing some personal thoughts with you on the May 10 Alamo Heights election (early voting is underway and runs through May 6).  I welcome differing opinions and only ask that we keep the discussion thoughtful and respectful; we all have the same goal, protecting a community about which we care deeply.

I participated in the recent community discussion regarding the proposed luxury apartment project on Broadway. Regardless of which side of the debate any one was on, the outcome is what it is; I accept that.

But, for me, the great, unexpected surprise in that debate was to learn of the remarkably different opinions concerning the current state of the Broadway corridor, that section of Broadway from Lincoln Heights to the University of the Incarnate Word.

The unoccupied Broadway Theatre Building on Broadway Street and surrounding empty buildings. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

The Broadway Theatre Building on Broadway Street. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

One group seemed to see the corridor as pleasing, comfortable and appropriately representative of our unique city.  The other group described a streetscape in dire need of improvement and a deteriorating tenant base that has left our community with a dearth of useful and entertaining services.

I fall in the second category.

A desolate miniature strip mall at 7231 Broadway Street. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

A miniature strip mall at 7231 Broadway Street. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

In the course of that public debate on the apartment project, my wife Annie and I twice walked Broadway from the College Boulevard to Central Market. What we saw at a leisurely walking pace was much different than what we sense in daily driving the same path at 30 miles per hour.  In general, what we saw was a  “D-” commercial district in the heart of an “A+” residential community: underwhelming public improvements (sidewalks, medians, lighting…) and neglected or underutilized private properties.  It left us with a sad sense that we are squandering a valuable resource in the very heart of our city.

Bike World and Local Coffee's Alamo heights location on Broadway Street. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

The thriving Bike World and Local Coffee’s Alamo heights location on Broadway Street. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

I think that our city leadership has done a reasonable job of providing a responsible budget and seeing that our basic services are in order.  With that important foundation, I would like to see city leaders now set a loftier goal:  the revitalization of the Broadway corridor.

Not only would citizens benefit from a broader offering of services and entertainment, but our City would enjoy a burgeoning tax base that could relieve some of the tax burden from residential property owners.

I am only one voice, so the question is whether the majority of citizens feel similarly.  The May 10 election gives us a great opportunity to test that question.  We have two candidates who feel as I do about our Broadway corridor. They are willing to carry the message to Council that it is time to get serious about the Broadway corridor.  They are:

John Savage, an incumbent councilman who I have known for 15 years.  John is a U.S. Army veteran who holds an MBA with a concentration in Finance and has been in the insurance business since 1979. He has been instrumental in helping create the fiscally responsible environment our city currently enjoys.

Lynda Billa Burke,  a neighbor of mine who I have known for perhaps 25 years.  Lynda has held important positions on a long list of public organizations including  the San Antonio City Council, the Edwards Underground Water District and the San Antonio Planning Commission.  She brings a wealth of experience and relationships that would serve our community well.

Fred Prassel, a life-long resident of Alamo Heights and incumbent councilman, is an Army Veteran who received a Masters in English from the University of Texas.  He has been a general contractor for 33 years and has taught German for 16 years.  He has held offices in many local civic organizations, including serving as past President of the Alamo Heights Rotary Club.

There is no question but that every vote is vitally important in an Alamo Heights election; our leadership is sometime decided by as little as a few hundred citizens who take time to vote.  So, regardless of how you vote, please take time to do so.  And, if you feel as Annie and I do about the Broadway corridor, please cast a vote for John Savage, Lynda Billa Burke and Fred Prassel.

Thanks for your time,

Tim and Annie Swan

 *Featured/top image: Lion’s Field Adult and Senior Center is an early voting location for Alamo Heights residents. Lion’s Field Park is dotted with campaign signs for local candidates. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Related Stories:

Broadway/Austin Highway Property Owners: An Open Letter to Friends and Neighbors

Alamo Heights Rejects Gateway Project for Broadway and Austin Highway

Alamo Heights’ Gateway to High Density Housing

Lower Broadway’s New Low-Density Housing

32 thoughts on “Alamo Heights Vote All About Broadway Corridor

  1. Thanks for your article, Tim and Annie. I would like to add that the City Council’s failure to implement the Comprehensive Plan has added to the problem. We need a Neighborhood committee to prioritize the Plan for their neighborhoods, so the Plan’s Action Steps are included in our budget. The Broadway Corridor needs to be included as a neighborhood, so they can be more involved in a solution rather than everybody bemoaning the issue but nothing happens. It isn’t just the Broadway Corridor that we have heard so much about, it includes flooding issues, streets, open space and green space, conservation, historic preservation, demolition, and public and private realms. Parts of the plan require revisions of our existing codes. Too many people just don’t get involved. I’m with you – regardless of how you vote, please take time to do so….AND take the time to read the Comprehensive Plan! Thanks again for speaking out.

    • Sarah, if elected to AH City Council what specific recommendations would you have relating to the Broadway corridor of Alamo Heights?

      You, Dr Elliot Weser and Kimberly Lubianski were all especially articulate tonight at the meet and greet on Bluebonnet. You 3 have my vote over the carpetbagger and the other two men.

  2. The overwhelming opinion of Alamo Heights residents was against the Alamo Manhattan project. How many yard signs did people see in favor of it?

    Prassel and Savage voted in favor of it despite this. How can we trust them to represent the people? If Billa Burke is part of this clique then there’s a danger of our concerns not being represented there also. Better to continue with Wesser who at least seems to be more in touch with his constituents.

    Metropolitan Contracting … isn’t this a developer?

  3. Tim Swan is Texas Cavalier, CEO of a construction co and firmly planted in the boys club .

    Lynda Burke is a carpet-bagger from the south side who owns trailer parks.

  4. #4 Roo 2014-04-30 11:38
    Tim Swan, CEO of San Antonio’s Metropolitan Contracting Co., which has watched several potential construction projects get placed on hold this year.

    Metropolitan can’t consider new hiring until it feels more confident about the rules it will face and the business prospects that will develop, Swan said.

    “Nobody knows how to plan,” he said.

    This from MYSAnANTONIO interview.

  5. Tim, you glibly gloss over your development background and your vested interest in what you advocate.

    This really is not a “good old fashioned discussion”. It is you trying to make money. Shame on you for not fully explaining involvement or intentions.

  6. I hope The Rivard Report is charging advertising rates for this thinly veiled business promotion.

    What we really don’t need is to turn downtown Alamo Heights into the cavernous abyss that is the Pearl has now become along Broadway at Grayson and Josephine. Yes the developers are making money on it and it’s just a bad, ugly blight to many of us.

    Mr Swann is being disingenuous to characterize his self-serving, free promotional effort as “good old community discussion”. Hogwash! It is nothing but snake oil salesmanship about getting the easy votes (Billa-Burke, Prassel and Savage) on Council so they can approve Alamo Manhattan just as soon as this election is over with and they can get rid of Weser. Then it will be 4-1 against Hasslocher who will be totally outgunned. I have seen those emails from the developer Segrest and Overland architect Rick Archer to an AH city council candidate offering to back her campaign if she would agree to support Alamo Manhattan if she wins.

    This letter is as bad as one of Overland Architect’s principals, Madison Smith, getting up at one of the recent public meetings at Cambridge about Alamo Manhattan and pretending to be just an ordinary concerned citizen speaking in favor of the project, failing to mention his professional and vested interest in it was until someone in the audience spoke out and asked him where he worked. In 10 short seconds he and Overland became the laughingstock of Alamo Heights.

  7. I’ve watched the Broadway corridor sadly atrophy for 10+ years.

    Mr Swann may well have an agenda, but I am genuinely curious about the debate he proposes. For my part, once there are more grocery options near downtown, my last reason for visiting that district will be gone.

    In the humble opinion of a non-resident who’s very familiar with that area (and tried a few times to be a pedestrian there to my own peril) it sure seems like the city of Alamo Height just doesn’t want to have a commercial corridor.

    The nature and promise of that area reminds me of South Congress in Austin, which is an extremely vibrant community. The reality of what it is now is exactly the opposite.

  8. I, and most voters in AH, do not oppose development. I, and most voters, simply expect it to happen with our informed consent and not our forced, unwitting participation. Savage and Prassel endorsed a process that was made public too late to be a legitimate proposal to neighbors and citizens. Burke seems poised to join them on the fast track to demolition and erection.

    It is disingenous and a disservice to readers to propose that this debate is about development or not. It really is about whether our elected officials should be open and honest about important developments in the community, instead of working silently with developers to urge the process along quickly and avoid public scrutiny. It is unfortunate that the developer community would go to such lengths to pull the wool over neighbors’ eyes instead of trying to win their trust openly.

  9. Did you mean to say that you walked from the university to the Central Market? That is only one block on Broadway maybe two-and that’s a generous measurement. I’m not really sure that qualifies as an assessment of ‘the Broadway Corridor.’

  10. Mr Swan, you began your discussion with good and helpful information with which we can all agree. However, you then turned your “old-fashioned community discussion” into pure political blabber. You imply that the challengers, with the exception of Ms Burke, (because they don’t agree with you) are against revitalization of downtown Not one challenger or incumbent is anti development or revitalization of the commercial corridor. The challengers are against the 18 months of behind the scenes dealings that came to nothing but strife. the citizens of Alamo Heights have to follow a long and expensive process to build anything. That process is open and follows all the building regulations. Development should follow the same process.

    • It’s surprising (and disheartening) to me as a former longtime Alamo Heights resident how vitriolic and cynical the responses have been to Tim Swan’s posting. Hardly any of the comments focus on what he wrote, and instead demonize him as a developer. Developers built Alamo Heights. Developers, among many others, have ignited an urban renaissance in San Antonio. More importantly, what happened to respectfully disagreeing with your neighbor without ascribing dark motive, or without tarring and feathering those who hold different views? Disagree with Tim, if you will, but does the Swan family deserve the personal attacks that question Tim’s integrity?

      Overland Partners has come in for its burning at the stake. Do its critics have any idea how many quality people have been attracted to our city to work for the firm, or how highly regarded the firm is both nationally and now internationally? Disagree with the Alamo Manhattan project and the process, that’s fair. But the vast conspiracy is hard to see from my vantage point.

      I’m not sure that people in Alamo Heights appreciate how bitter the public conversation seems to have turned in your community, and that’s an observation made not by someone who buys into the usual stereotypes about Alamo Heights, but by someone whose family enjoyed living there for more than two decades, who saw what the AHISD quality public schools can deliver, and who remains fond of the people and community there.

      • Bob, Tim’s comments have given us an opportunity to meet, but we switched to private email to continue our conversation. Perhaps if people had to use their real names, they would mind their manners instead of ruining the discussion for others. It would help also if you had a complaint box we could click, similar to Facebook.

      • Bob, If you were there at the council meeting in January at Cambridge Elementary School where the vote happened on Alamo Manhattan, you would have witnessed blatent disregard and ambivalence towards people having legitimate concerns around that project.

        Rosenthal, Savage and Prassel were determined to pass a vote. The manner in which this went down was farcical. More seriously it showed that here is a group that is supposed to be representing its people, that clearly has a different agenda. The issue here is about trust not about development. Unless this trust issue is addressed, it will be hard to get people away from having cynical views on developers talking about development while mentioning council names. Perhaps we can have another thread to talk about how the candidates will address the trust issue?

    • Mr. Swan, I have a hard time supporting your candidates (Burke, Prassel and Savage) when the three of them opted for a party as an excuse to not attend a neighborhood forum and face the voters.

      Dr Weser and Mrs. Lubianski at least had the decency to agree to attend instead of swilling beer that evening at the Pearl like Burke, Prassel and Savage did.

      A large government class from the University of the Incarnate Word showed up at the forum. What a sad example of American democracy not at work thanks to the likes of the so-called triplets– Billa Burke, Fred Prassel and John Savage.

  11. As a long time resident…. I welcome some updating. that broadway corridor is in need of a facelift and it is time to get on board with it. When you see the exciting changes going on at the Pearl, then we should be thinking on how to get some nice and upscale as well as eclectic business in our neighborhood and put some love into the surrounding area. I hope we don’t do dry and boring architecture like that broadway monstrosity that ate Earl Abels but that we keep the architecture interesting and innovative and eclectic and some bike lanes would be nice !

    • Carol, you clearly articulated your opinion about the Broadway condominium at the corner of Broadway and Hildebrand.

      And while you generally praise the concept and architecture at the Pearl, I wonder what you think of the apartment buildings that have created a canyon-like effect on Broadway around Grayson and Josephine Streets?

      I don’t care for them at all and, furthermore, I understand that the tenants are now moving out in droves.

      I would also add that I am extremely disappointed with the new Alamo Heights fire station which was designed by Overland architects. These supposedly world class architects have certainly not done their hometown any favors with this box-like barn with a tower. I’m so underwhelmed and very greatly disappointed with Overland’s poor finished product.

      One other major misconception that I would like to correct in peoples’ minds about Alamo Manhattan: Overland Architects were only hired to draw the initial drawings and sell the project to the public. The Dallas developers never planned to use Overland as the project’s real architects–all along they plan to use their architectural firm in Dallas that they have worked with for years. Overland got shafted and don’t even have a clue.

  12. I agree with Bob Rivard deploring the nastiness of many of the comments and with Sarah’s statement that if people used their real names comments would be more civil (or not at all).
    Now for the Alamo Manhattan Project.
    I was opposed to the AM project for many reasons and wrote publicly about those concerns, but I had hoped that an acceptable project would come forth consistent with our Comprehensive Plan vision. I met numerous times with the developer and architect and they made many changes. In fact, most of my concerns were addressed but not all and I was opposed to their final proposal. Some of the problem related to our antiquated building codes that created barriers to even good projects. But that’s another story. Although I was opposed to the project as presented, I supported council proposing a modified Special Use Permit. It was council’s way of telling this developer and future developers what height could be favorably considered. The height they proposed were within the CP guidelines. It was then up to the developer to see if they could work with that. They chose to walk away. In my opinion this was a better approach than refusing to even discuss the project and voting no. Worse still, councilman Weser wanted to cut off any discussion and go immediately to a vote. This is not professional nor in the best interest of Alamo Heights. It makes our City a laughing stock and will harm our chances for getting good projects in the future. Now if one is totally against any development, that’s fine. I’m not.

    Now for the AM project role in the election.
    I have a history of opposing high rises. BTW, the AM project was no longer a high rise at the end, it was a large (for AH standards) apartment building. I can’t help but laugh when I see these “champions” against high-rises like Weser and the AHNA. Three years ago when the charter amendment limiting building height was on the ballot. Weser vigorously opposed it. In fact, he wrote an opinion piece in the newspaper and ADVOCATE expressing that opposition. His words, if used today, would sound much like the most ardent supporters of the AM project. People have asked me why I don’t support him now since we were both against the project. I don’t support him because I think his position is politically motivated, just like it was three years ago. I respect the other candidates who opposed the project because I believe them to be sincere.
    But now he’s the champion of all those fearing development and our City will be the loser in the end. Demagoguery never ends up well.

  13. My comment about councilman Weser was germane to Mr. Swan’s article and to your earlier comment, George Gordon. You broad brush Cooper, Rosenthal, Prassel and Savage as pro-development but cry that Hasslocher and Weser are not. To use your words “it rankles those voters who want development, but expect it done in a public forum and expect it done sensibly and sensitively. ” Wasn’t there an opportunity at the Council meeting on the Alamo Manhattan Project to do just that? Wasn’t that the time for Weser and Hasslocher to express what a sensible plan might be? Of course it was, especially after 5 hours of comments from citizens evenly split. So this is not a jab; it is a commentary about a councilman’s actions in the line of his duty. His action was disrespectful of those who supported the project. They deserved to know where all the council members stood on the project AND what needed to be changed. Without that how can we move forward?

    • Sir, the problem was that it was not evenly split. The Alamo Heights residents opposed the project. The architects and developers from around San Antonio favored the project. Architects and developers in San Antonio should have a voice — they’re pros at this stuff — but they should identify themselves. The masquerade during the debate offended many. Like others said above, it is the process that has been distasteful, not the topic.

  14. Something else springs to mind. At one point, Mr. Rivard of this blog was going to host a debate among candidates in AH. Did that idea get set aside? Did Mr. Rivard decide not to participate?

    • I was eager to moderate the debate, but the candidates were unwilling to commit to the event and I was unwilling to moderate a debate in which incumbents and challengers were not all present. It’s unfortunate that the political tensions in Alamo Heights preclude thoughtful and respectful conversation and debate.

  15. John Joseph contacted me today to deny allegations by others in Alamo Heights that he has posted comments on the Rivard Report and other websites under an assumed name. When we did not hear from him, or could not get an email response from the “George Gordon” who was supposedly posting, or find anyone by that name listed. we assumed the allegations were correct. The fact is we don’t have any evidence it was John Joseph, just the claims of others. We apologize. We have removed all comments by George Gordon from our site and it is that name we have banned from our site unless and until we meet him and confirm his identity as the writer.

    • Bob, I hope my comment about people using real names didn’t generate the banning of George Gordon. I have tried to encourage others to join in, but they would like to know what the rules are. I could never be an administrator for an Alamo Heights blog. Something happens during elections and even the nicest people go wacko. Then things finally settle down right before it is time for another election.

      • How about honesty? That should not require much explanation. I’m surprised people in Alamo Heights believe intentional misrepresentation of their identities is acceptable. — RR

        • Bob, I’m just trying to understand what type of comments you are removing. I got in on the last couple of days late. You left one of George’s comments in that somebody else described as excellent.

          I am glad to see that you are monitoring names now.

  16. Why, then, does the site continue to refer to someone thought to have posted as George Gordon. By using that person’s name, the site seems to continue to accuse him, but acknowledge (in a backhanded way) his denial. Either the editor’s politics are on display or the editor is just sloppy. If the editor really meant to reverse himself, he would stop using the man’s name altogether. It is clear the editor here is working with one side. Honesty? Hardly.

    • Martin

      Thanks for your comment, but your assertion about the Rivard Report team working with one side is BS. This is simple: We want real people leaving real comments on stories, period. Anything you or others in Alamo Heights want to infer, is disingenuous. Frankly, after this experience with Alamo Heights I’m not sure we can guarantee the integrity of all our comments and their writers, although we seemed to be doing just fine until we started covering the development debate in Alamo Heights. We will continue to aim for that goal. –RR

  17. Ladies & Gentlemen:
    I used to live across the street from Tim and Annie and they are
    wonderful people. I have also lived in Alamo
    Heights all of my life. I have thought of this many times as I
    drive down Broadway almost every day. Anything that is needed to enhance this area should be done I am pleased to see that this article included Bikeworld and Local Coffee. I was married to the owner of Bikeworld and he truly has done a beautiful remodeling job and I was glad to see that this article describes it as ” thriving” as it is. That particular area (5900 block) of Broadway and the strip mall across the street are the prettiest parts of Broadway. This part of town (the Broadway Corridor) is certainly worthy of improvement and would enhance both the City of Alamo Heights and the City of San Antonio. TCP

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