Did the project get toned down? Yes: the arch by the “Tree of Life” feature and the shade structure over the Salinas Street Bridge are both gone (see photo gallery above).
Is the project over budget? Yes; the total cost has gone up from $175 million to $206.8 million. That’s 18.2% more. The county’s commitment as of Tuesday remains at $125 million.
Will the project be completed on time? Yes, Phase 1 and 2 will still be completed by San Antonio’s 300th birthday in 2018.
Does the court like it? Yes – but they want assurance of city funding and an outside agency to pay for art.
First and foremost, it is a flood control project, but water quality, economic development, and the creation of a destination for visitors and locals alike are close behind.
The changes from the 40% design and the 70% design means one less acre of landscaping (from 11.5 to 10.3 acres), and 10,000 more feet of new walls (from 60,000 linear feet to 70,000). The Alameda Amphitheater stage will be on the west bank as the seating will be easier to adapt to the Frost Bank design of their new building, whatever it will be.
Steve Tillotson, principal at local architecture firm Muñoz & Co. that is leading the design effort, described the changes to the “Tree of Life” designs. This particular feature, located at the northernmost end of the project where the San Pedro Creek flows out of the tunnel structure at North Santa Rosa and Cameron streets, has been the focus point of criticisms of the project’s “overdone” preliminary designs. The new design renderings presented Wednesday represent the incorporation of positive and negative feedback on these designs.
“We’re going to screen the tunnel and add decorative lighting. There will be two rows of trees on both sides of the plaza. We want an open area where we can create a public space. It will flood now and then,” he said.
New York-based architectural lighting design firm Fisher Marantz Stone, the same firm that designed the lighting for the National 9/11 Memorial, will be lighting the “Tree of Life” feature. Tillotson said most of the designers and artists working on this an other features will be local.
Todd Brant, an on-staff landscape architect, was introduced by Henry Muñoz, founder and owner of Muñoz & Co.
“He has a passion for designing healthy, sustainable environments that nurture the ecological, social and cultural contexts, Muñoz said. “We were lucky to convince him to leave the University of Texas system to come here.”
Brandt has 24 years of experience, he added, and has worked on more than 200 projects. He works on conceptual design all the way through final production and is LEED accredited.
“Projects like this only come around once or twice in an architect’s lifetime,” Brandt said. “I’m glad to be working on this.”
Most of the landscape construction will be in the aquatic zone.
“We want to create an arrangement of a wide variety of plants,” Brandt said. “All plants will be native.”
The plan calls for creek banks to be covered with a carpet of flowers.
“The inspiration for the arrangement of plants come from the Canary Islands,” Brandt said. “We will treat the creek as a canvas. The planting patterns will be organic but geometric. The rows of shrubs will be practical as well as aesthetic.”
The improvements plan is 70% complete – which means the bulk of the engineering and technical work has been completed while specific designs are still evolving.
The next San Pedro Creek subcommittee meeting is scheduled for Sep. 10 at 8:30 a.m. at the San Antonio River Authority board room, 100 E Guenther. There is no charge to attend and the public is invited to these events.
Planning is now underway for the public art component of the project as an advisory committee has been formed to curate the artist selection process.
Keep up with the project’s meeting schedule at www.spcproject.org/calendar.