Bexar County commissioners unanimously approved almost $60 million for the San Pedro Creek Culture Park project Tuesday, funding the next segment of construction.
The second segment of the first phase is already under construction, extending the park’s reach from Houston Street south to Nueva Street, according to the park’s website. The second segment includes plans for a performance plaza, a green space with a “cascading wall of water,” and a five-part mural behind the Spanish Governors’ Palace. The segment is now slated to be completed in March 2021; original estimates had the project being completed in 2020.
Kerry Averyt, senior engineer with the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) and project manager of San Pedro Creek, told commissioners Tuesday the budget for the second segment of construction also had increased. The guaranteed maximum price for Phase 1.2 is now $74.7 million, a 20 percent increase from preliminary estimates, he said.
"The market right now, there’s a lot of construction going on, that has the tendency to cause prices to trend upward with labor and materials," he said.
Commissioner Paul Elizondo (Pct. 2) said "unforeseen" costs often occur in construction.
"The community deserves to get the whole thing that you told them they were going to do," he said. "We had a lot of support for the project when we started. The cost has gone up, but these things are going to happen."
Of the approved $59.38 million, $48.49 million would go toward construction; $3.06 million toward project management and materials testing; $4.84 million for additional construction administration and archeological testing; and nearly $3 million to finish design for the third segment of Phase 1 as well as the design for Phase 2.
Averyt estimated the designs for the next two construction portions would be completed next October, much to Judge Nelson Wolff's chagrin.
"That long?" Wolff asked. "Can we buy them some extra pencils?"
Of the total funding commissioners approved Tuesday, $39.98 million had already been allocated to San Pedro Creek Culture Park and utilities would pay $2.49 million. The commissioners approved an additional $16.9 million from existing county funds from federal government reimbursement money.
Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owe Bexar County a total of $61.3 million in reimbursements for the Mission Reach project, SARA General Manager Suzanne Scott explained. The river authority has worked with the local Congressional delegation to get the money back from the federal government for the county.
"We got about $25.8 million back in cash and gave it back to the county," she said. "They’ve been holding it in an account to apply to San Pedro and potentially other projects in the future."
The first segment of San Pedro Creek Culture Park opened in May. The park featured a water wall and fountain, and tile murals created by San Antonio artists Adriana Garcia, Katie Pell, Alex Rubio, and Joe Lopez. Construction costs for the first segment of the project – the part of the creek that runs south to Houston Street – totaled $57.3 million. That was $5.2 million less than the $62.5 million allocated by Bexar County commissioners, according to county officials.
The park has hit bumps in the road to development. A sculpture originally intended to the park’s centerpiece was scuttled after costs exceeded the budget by more than $700,000. The park also had to close in June after children used the Plaza de Fundación area of the creek for swimming, potentially exposing them to harmful bacteria. Work crews made the creek shallower to discourage swimming.
Elizondo requested that designers consider ways to make playing in the water safer for children.
"With all this money we’re spending, I think we need to ... come up with something where little children can walk in this water," he said. "With all the talent and resources we put in there, we should be able to do better."
Averyt assured Elizondo that designers are looking at options to allow kids to wade in the water.
"It’s a concern shared by others, including us," he said.
The third segment of Phase 1 will focus on infrastructure updates and complement the new federal courthouse located at Santa Rosa Avenue and Nueva Street, and Phase 2 focuses on flood control. A total of four phases of construction are planned.