San Pedro Creek: San Antonio’s Next Linear Park

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An artist's rendering of what San Pedro Creek could become. For visualization purposes only, this is not a design. Photo courtesy of SARA.

An artist's rendering of what San Pedro Creek could become. For visualization purposes only, this is not a design. Photo courtesy of SARA.

More than 120 creative spirits and engaged citizens gathered Saturday morning to help design the $175 million redevelopment of San Pedro Creek through downtown San Antonio.

It was the first of many public workshops planned for the project, which will transform a long-ignored ditch (see video below) into a linear urban park while advancing flood mitigation, revitalizing ecology, and sparking cultural and economic development along its path.

“This is another opportunity to reenergize people’s connection with water, history, and culture,” said Suzanne Scott, general manager of the San Antonio River Authority (SARA), which organized the meeting with the City of San Antonio and Bexar County. “Historically, the creek is so important to the development of our community.”

Armed with coffee and refreshments, “energized” is a good description of the conversations participants were having. The din of the design process often caused citizens to lean across tables to better hear ideas, concerns, and questions – a good problem to have at a public planning meeting, especially on a Saturday at 9 a.m..

Think of the Mission and Museum Reaches of the San Antonio River, but shorter and quite narrow in some sections. The two-mile stretch of San Pedro Creek is often crowded by commercial buildings, flanked by parking lots, and hidden from pedestrian and vehicle view. Project leaders expect to draw commercial and housing investments to the area, similar to investments now being made on the Mission and Museum Reaches.

“Although this project is downtown, it’s more about connecting the community. Connecting our Westside and our Southside to our downtown and vice versa,” Scott said of San Pedro Creek’s role in the larger Westside Creeks Restoration Project. “The city has invested more than $10 million in linear creekway connections.”

westside creekway projects map san pedro

To tackle the complicated terrain of the project, the creek has been divided into six segments or “character areas.” Each area has unique features and urban landscape, so divvying up the design will help engineers and architects – HDR, Inc. and Muñoz & Company, respectively – incorporate assets and address challenges for each character area.

Michael Guarino of Ford Powell & Carson Architects (right) takes notes during the San Pedro Park public workshop. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Michael Guarino of Ford Powell & Carson Architects (right) takes notes during the San Pedro Park public workshop. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Each table at the meeting was assigned a character area. Citizens then moved to the table that most interested them. At the Canal Principal/Main Channel table, participants focused on how to restore the narrow, paved-over sections of the creek to a more natural state. One such section is flanked by hotels and residences with little to no access to the actual creek.

“We need to take this ditch and turn it into something for people,” said Tony Cantu of  the San Antonio River Oversight Committee.

He and the other planners at the table emphasized the importance of creating a multi-modal pathway that restores the ecology of the area – a place for humans, water, and wildlife. Signage and pathways to and from the creek will be a crucial part of this section. But designers will have little to work with.

A section of San Pedro Creek as it exists today. Photo courtesy of SARA.

A section of San Pedro Creek as it exists today. Photo courtesy of SARA.

“Maybe an elevated pathway, like High Line Park in New York?” proposed Nita Shaver. The table was excited about this idea.

“That’s a wonderful suggestion,” said Michael Guarino of Ford Powell & Carson Architects, facilitator of the table discussion.

Guarino was furiously taking down notes as the table occupants talked, laughed, and pointed out troublesome areas of the map. He was pleasantly surprised with the turnout and impressed with community feedback. His notes will be added to dozens more, notes on all the section maps will be analyzed – including the note about protecting turtles in the Canal Principal – and designers will come back in November to present the mashup of ideas to the public at another public workshop.

An artist's rendering of what San Pedro Creek could become. For visualization purposes only, this is not a design. Photo courtesy of SARA.

An artist’s rendering of what San Pedro Creek could become. For visualization purposes only, this is not a design. Photo courtesy of SARA.

“The key will be making it an inviting, walkable place for people,” said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff as he watched the workshop. “There’s a lot of congestion along the River Walk around the bend. This may alleviate that.”

Much of the design stage is scheduled to be completed by February. Scott said the goal is to schedule construction over two years, with completion by San Antonio’s 300th anniversary in 2018.

Bexar County has committed $125 million so far, Scott said. The unfunded remainder likely will be filled by various public and private investments from area businesses and downtown development initiatives. The “right-of-way” costs and complications of acquiring or using surrounding properties downtown will be one of the main hurdles.

San Pedro Creek project area map. Courtesy SARA.

San Pedro Creek project area map. Courtesy SARA.

“Private property rights are extremely important and we don’t want to assume anything at this point, so we’re going to continue to work with property owners,” she said, adding that SARA will seek property donations. “I think that many of them see that it could be financially beneficial – obviously the value of their land and the opportunities of their land could be enhanced (by the redevelopment) but also they’re concerned about parking and access – rightfully so. We need (business and property owners) at the table.”

The San Pedro project should benefit from the successful and well-received completion of the Museum and Mission Reaches of the San Antonio River. People now understand the benefits of bringing a moribund waterway back to life, both for aesthetic reasons and as an economic development initiative.

“We have a recent example of how public investment can spur economic development. It’s not a pipe dream or something that we don’t know about,” Scott said.  “And if people appreciate their waterways more, they’re going to want to protect them. They’ll become more curious about storm water, trash, flora, fauna. It’s an opportunity to change the narrative about our creeks.”

If you missed this meeting, but would like to stay up to date about the redevelopment of San Pedro Creek, contact SARA by phone at (210) 302-3257, email, or visit their office at 100 E. Guenther St. 

*Originally published on Aug. 24, 2014. 

Related Stories:

A Fantasy Look Back: Plans Canceled for Downtown River Project

SARA Documentary Chronicles Story of the San Antonio River

Guarding San Antonio’s Eternal Water Future

City Council Backs SAWS, Boosts Water Impact Fees

SAWS Impact Fees Represent More than Meets the Eye

17 thoughts on “San Pedro Creek: San Antonio’s Next Linear Park

  1. This is a wonderful project, not just because it beautifies the creeks and allows ecology to develop, but because it’s not just about tourism, but an improved way of life. Also this is rendition appears reminiscent of the Cheonggyecheon in Seoul, Korea. What I’m hoping is that this approach is expanded to other creeks throughout San Antonio in more suburban parts of town.

  2. Yes, I know about it. One of our esteemed contributing writers on MUZE COLLECTIVE has been working on it while also finishing his masters. Javi’s passion for this type of development is the reason he is a part of us.

  3. This is exciting – but I wish SARA (and the Rivard Report) would balance promoting this minor aspect of the Westside Creeks Restoration Project with updates on how work is going with the more expansive linear trails along Apache, San Pedro, Alazan and Martinez Creeks – including work scheduled to begin this May and be completed next year.

    Will the linear trails help bring the pedestrian connections to downtown and improvements that Westside residents have long waited for?

    Will they support mixed income / integrated public and private housing within the historic core of the city?

    Will they encourage helpful commercial and public investment along the trails and related corridors?

    Will they prove to be a flashpoint for gentrification (based on the example of the City’s handling of Mission Reach housing re-zoning and development)?

    This is likely the story of 2015, and I wish someone in San Antonio was covering it now.

  4. And my goodness – my Westside neighborhood (to be connected with downtown via a linear trail) has been waiting at least 14 years for planned improvements to residential sidewalks (to connect schools, parks, bus stations, etc) and pedestrian safety conditions along Fredericksburg Road (see the Near Northwest Community Plan / MOU).

    Recent (2012) VIA Primo bus stations inside the 410 Loop and along Fredericksburg Road are still not connected with sidewalks or adequate crossings, and pedestrian fatalities are disproportionately high along the route. Some PRIMO stations (in Leon Valley) don’t even have coverings yet?

    But the city prioritizes this pedestrian project? It will be great, but could the City please prioritize where pedestrian safety has been a known issue for residents for 14 years or more?

  5. I completely agree with TIRPAKMA. This is a hot topic. I live in Woodlawn Terrace, the neighborhood adjacent to Martinez Creek project, and when I see the San Pedro project conceptual plan, I wonder where the money was for the rest of the areas that really needed this sort of big thinking.
    The city has major funding and support for the San Pedro vision (really, it looks amazing) while the Westside River link is limping along and certainly not highlighted. Westside, Beacon Hill controversies like French + Michigan get spotlighted, so I’m wondering when the Rivard Report will look at this project as a whole and share the real story.

    • The recent French & Michigan ‘controversy’ – as a boomerang resident of this part of SA – makes absolutely no sense to me. I lived in a storefront apartment (zoned mixed residential & commercial) on this corner roughly 13 years ago, and the space in question then was used as an arts gallery and likely living space . . . complimenting a neighboring tattoo parlor (and backroom apartment), a tech. startup (and backroom apartment) and numerous other businesses, residencies and similarly ‘mixed’ buildings or live-and-work spaces. Such mixing is likely the historic character of this part of the city, and planning decisions should support its continuance.

      Returning to San Antonio, I thought for sure the new PRIMO line, progressive City planning and cries for more center city housing and walkable neighborhoods would help improve connections between this part of historic San Antonio (uptown) and downtown – including walking and cycling options, but no such luck. Instead, the PRIMO bi-sects and further isolates the neighborhood by veering off onto the highway instead of heading further south along Fredericksburg Road and surface streets such as N. Flores. And how in the world was the historic Small World Hobby Shop building and facade on Fred. (a few blocks north of Michigan & French) approved by the City and Historic Board for demolition (at roughly the same time as the Michigan & French controversy) – including as the site is a vacant lot some 14 months on? What was the City thinking?

      Thirteen years, and Fredericksburg Road still eats bike tires at rail crossings , sidewalk conditions are terrible (non-existent along some blocks of Fred. that connect the neighborhood with an HEB less than mile up the road) and folks still sweat it out (with inadequate service, seating, amenities, etc.) at the major transit exchange at Fred. & N. Flores.

      It is roughly three miles from this part of San Antonio to the Alamo (and well within the historic streetcar reach of the city), and still it languishes. The multi-million dolar San Pedro Creek plan falls about a half of a mile short of serving the area amd creating a strong pedestrian connection (most likely along N. Flores) between downtown and San Pedro Park – historically, our city’s Central (and first) park, and one of the oldest public spaces in the nation.

      People complain about a lack of affordable housing in the center city and walkable neighborhoods and park amenities and then spend hundreds of millions to build more or less a parallel Riverwalk section downtown first? I just don’t get it. Could you imagine Austin treating Barton Springs Park like San Antonio treats San Pedro?

  6. I fondly remember the river buses of HemisFair ’68. Now that the streetcar is off the map, we should consider using the San Pedro Stream for mass transportation.

  7. Can’t wait for the first flood. Then Floresville will receive the San Pedro Creek Project all $175 million of it. Then how much do we have to spend to restore the project.

  8. How is there not a single landscape architect involved on this project?! There are dozens of landscape architecture firms much more qualified for this “landscape scale” project. Design Workshop, Wenk & Associates, Olin, Tom Leader Studio, or GGN, just to name a few! I feel San Antonio is doing itself a huge disservice by not allowing this project to be led by the folks who are the most qualified to do so. You may have great input and a flashy design concept, but implementation of a public space/ecological restoration/watershed project of this scale requires the eyes, experience, and process of a tested landscape architect. I hope the city hires one for the redesign in 5 years…

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