‘We Move Downtown’: Centro San Antonio Launches With New Brand, Structure

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Southwest School of Art President Paula Owen (left) and SAISD Foundation Chair Carri Baker Wells accept $3,000 checks from Centro San Antonio President and CEO Pat DiGiovanni. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Southwest School of Art President Paula Owen (left) and SAISD Foundation Board Chair Carri Baker Wells accept $3,000 checks from Centro San Antonio on Monday as a token of Centro's commitment to fostering the arts and education in San Antonio. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

biopicCentro San Antonio officially announced its new brand and internal restructuring Monday morning during a press conference at the new Briscoe Western Art Museum. Both developments represent the organization's efforts to solidify its vision: to create a vibrant, prosperous center for economic and cultural activity in San Antonio's urban center.

"We Move Downtown" became the public-private nonprofit organization's new tagline and "With every new dawn, our city rises," the motto continues – surely a nod to the 80/20 Foundation's "City On The Rise" microscript that has made its way into many civic and community leaders' speeches.

Centro Board Chairman and Frost Bank SA President Don Frost, Mayor Juilán Castro, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, Centro President and CEO Pat DiGiovanni, and SA2020 Chief of Engagement Molly Cox pose for a photo at the official announcement of Centro San Antonio's new brand. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

(From left) Centro Board Chairman and Frost Bank SA President Don Frost, Mayor Julián Castro, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, Centro President and CEO Pat DiGiovanni, and SA2020 Chief of Engagement Molly Cox pose for a photo at the official announcement of Centro San Antonio's new brand. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

After internal restructuring between Centro Partnership (now Centro San Antonio, Inc.), the Downtown Alliance (now Centro Alliance) and the Public Improvement District (now Centro PID), Centro San Antonio becomes the management branch that oversees contracted operations of the 501(s)6 membership branch, Centro Alliance, and the Centro PID, a 501(c)4 nonprofit which was established in 1999 to oversee the operation of the expanding Clean and Safe program. The latter program is responsible for the ambassador, streetscaping, and maintenance "amigos" dressed in bright yellow and purple shirts who keep downtown one of the tidiest in the nation.

The three organizations will share management resources under Centro San Antonio, according to Ben Brewer, now executive vice president of Centro San Antonio (formerly the president of the Downtown Alliance).

The consolidation will result in a "more efficient and effective use of resources," he said. A joint governance committee also will be formed with members from all three organizations.

Pat DiGiovanni, Centro San Antonio's president and CEO, lauded the progressive work of the City, SA2020, Bexar County, and private organizations by pointing to the places and projects that make downtown San Antonio unique: Alamo Plaza, Hemisfair Park, the River Walk, the Briscoe Museum, Mission Reach restoration, the coming-soon Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, Blue Star Arts complex, and more.

However, DiGiovanni said, "Far too many (residents and visitors) have yet to find something they love (downtown)." He pointed to underutilized spaces, vacant store fronts, unwelcoming corridors and "parking lots begging for a better purpose" in San Antonio's center city.

With a new "place-based strategy," Centro's goal will be to "make the places great and connect with people emotionally ... we want everyone to fall in love with downtown San Antonio – and that may sound a bit romantic ... but we're a romantic city," DiGiovanni said.

As a lead partner with SA2020, Centro has become, in a sense, the main source of action for SA2020's Downtown Development cause to create, according to SA2020's website:

  • "An economic atmosphere favorable to the development of new residential product.
  • The ability to attract and relocate jobs to the urban core.
  • Infrastructure connections between downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods.
  • A downtown that the citizens of San Antonio will choose to visit regularly."

Arts, culture, and education are the most important factors in revitalizing a downtown that's "everyone's neighborhood," DiGiovanni said. And as a symbol of Centro's dedication to these institutions, two $3,000 checks were given to the Southwest School of Art and the SAISD Foundation.

Southwest School of Art President Paula Owen (left) and SAISD Foundation Chair Carri Baker Wells accept $3,000 checks from Centro San Antonio President and CEO Pat DiGiovanni. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Southwest School of Art President Paula Owen (left) and SAISD Foundation Chair Carri Baker Wells (right) accept $3,000 checks from Centro San Antonio. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

"Our vision is to create an environment that will serve as a catalyst of physical development and attract bright minds," said Don Frost, president of Frost Bank's San Antonio operations and Centro board chairman. "Arts, culture and education are key elements of that environment."

"The private sector can't do it alone and the public sector can't do it alone," said Mayor Julián Castro. "We are living the 'Decade of Downtown' and Centro (San Antonio) is helping lead the way on projects like the UIW School of Osteopathic Medicine at SAISD's Fox Tech campus."

[Read more: A Downtown Medical School Moves One Step Closer to Reality.]

The UIW medical school project remains on the drawing board, but is at the top of Centro's long list of priorities, which includes VIA's Modern Street Car project, a downtown marketing campaign, and a business retention and recruitment strategy to eliminate vacant store fronts and create a more pedestrian-friendly environment.

Press conference emcee and SA2020's Chief of Engagement Molly Cox led the team to conclude with downtown's unofficial theme song:

 

Iris Dimmick is managing editor of the Rivard Report. Follow her on Twitter @viviris or contact her at iris@rivardreport.com.

 

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Streetcars and Bus Rapid Transit Will Speed San Antonio’s Transformation

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A Boyhood Remembered, a World Heritage Site Anticipated

It’s the Decade of Downtown, But Don’t Miss San Antonio’s Rising Southside

Rain Date: Historic San Antonio River Mission Reach Party on Oct. 5

 

5 thoughts on “‘We Move Downtown’: Centro San Antonio Launches With New Brand, Structure

  1. How ironic that DiGiovanni “pointed to underutilized spaces, vacant store fronts, unwelcoming corridors and ‘parking lots begging for a better purpose’ in San Antonio’s center city.” That’s exactly what Main Access says about property that H-E-B proposes to use a private park and parking area.

  2. Has there been any discussion of opening pop-ups shops in empty store fronts? I’ve seen this done successfully in other cities, and it would address 2 needs I’ve noticed in San Antonio: empty store fronts and a lack of places for local artists and artisans to sell their goods.

  3. Also, allowing local artists to fill empty store fronts with site-specific installations is win-win for the city, artists, and building owners.

  4. Many of these empty store fronts are not offered for rent. Spaces are held empty to bring down property values and save on property taxes. Real estate speculation, tax avoidance, and destruction of value by the big players has played a major part in the decline of Downtown.

  5. I really do not intend to be overly critical, but this blah-blah has been going on for far too long. Always pointing to the same “assets” with no forward movement at all. In my opinion, one of the core reasons we continually spin our wheels is that we have never answered “why” people should be downtown. Unfortunately — again, in my opinion — politicians, no matter their stripe, are not the ones who can confidently lead to a satisfying solution.

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