Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report
As the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project continues to progress, community leaders, area business owners, and residents had the opportunity Thursday to learn more about the transformative effort at the Christopher Columbus Italian Society.
The project’s Phase 1 broke ground in September with a 30-minute opera chronicling the indigenous history of the creek that has been a prominent land feature in the city for centuries. Over time, San Pedro Creek will be reimagined into a linear culture park, featuring permanent and revolving art pieces and portrayals of San Antonio’s unique culture and history.
“We’re going to tell stories about how our community developed,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said to a group of about 100 people.
The County is the project’s main funder.
“It’s (a project) that’s going to bring people down to the creek to understand the heart and soul of San Antonio, to understand our downtown is more than just about water – it’s about our culture.”
Construction on Phase 1 of the project has already begun with drilling to relocate the cable and internet lines from the downtown bridges to under the creek bed, officials said. This work has affected the project team’s original goal of finishing the creek from its inlet near Fox Tech High School to Dolorosa Street in time for the Tricentennial in May 2018 – The team told County Commissioners Tuesday that it will only be able to get to Houston Street by the May 2018 celebrations.
Street closures and traffic impacts due to the utility work have been other concerns of both the project team and the area business owners, residents, and employees. That work must be completed before the team demolishes and renovates the Houston and Commerce street bridges.
Starting Dec. 19, Houston Street will be fully closed from Laredo to Flores streets, officials said Thursday. The two north lanes of Commerce Street from Laredo to Flores streets will also be closed.
The team has been coordinating with project planners from other downtown developments – such as those leading the Frost Bank Tower effort – to ensure that the construction schedules align with minimal disruption to the surrounding areas, said Kerry Averyt, watershed engineer for the San Antonio River Authority, the project’s manager.
Planners anticipate several more road closures throughout the duration of the project, including probable full closures of both Houston and Commerce streets simultaneously from June to September 2017. The River Authority is working with the City of the San Antonio to create a traffic plan.
A number of downtown residents and business owners Thursday said they’re willing to put up with the road closures and traffic for the sake of implementing the unique culture park that’s replacing one of downtown’s eyesores.
“Its very exciting that they’re going to focus on the creek again since its historical significance is so great,” said The Vistana resident Nita Shaver, who moved to downtown San Antonio with her husband five years ago. “I think (the road closures) will be worth it.”
Construction and project updates can be found on the San Pedro Creek’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@SanPedroCreek). Anyone also can email the project team at email@example.com or call the information line at 210-302-3652.
There also is a San Pedro Creek app that can be downloaded on Google Play and will soon be available in the iTunes App Store.
Some community comments Thursday centered around trash maintenance in and around the creek, parking availability as the creek is completed, and the inclusion of more natural elements reminiscent of the creek’s indigenous population into the creek design.
To combat the trash issue, River Authority General Manager Suzanne Scott said she and her team plan to install devices in several of the waterway’s stormwater inlets to separate trash before it flows into the creek. As for parking, she said, the River Authority is working to create partnerships with other developers involved in projects in the area to allot certain times and locations for San Pedro Creek visitors to park in their lots and garages.
The creek’s overall design as far as art programming and features go, she added, is also still being refined. The San Pedro Creek design team, led by Muñoz and Company and Pape-Dawson Engineers, created an interpretive master plan for the creek, which it presented to County Commissioners Tuesday. The plan is broken up into eight sections, each one of which focuses on a historical or cultural theme that relates to that particular area of the creek.
Programming in each of those areas – which could include visual art pieces, guided tours, architectural design elements, and interpretive signage – will reflect the history of the location, officials said.
Pete Cortez of La Familia Cortez Restaurants said he sees the creek inspiring unique opportunities that will propel the overall community and nearby neighborhoods forward.
“I think over time we’re going to start seeing a lot more development, a lot more people living along the creek,” he told the Rivard Report. “I really feel like out of all the (downtown) projects, this particular project has the most potential to create economic development.”
Officials anticipate the project catalyzing a $1.5 billion economic impact, creating 2,100 new housing units, 1,428 new downtown employees, 7,300 new downtown residents, and a 150% increase in new property value.
Bexar County Commissioner Paul Elizondo (Pct. 2), who grew up along the banks of the creek, said that transforming the waterway also will revitalize a once-thriving Westside community that was home to a confluence of cultures and religions.
“(San Pedro Creek) is the heart of San Antonio,” he said. “It will feature a world class park that represents San Antonio’s cultural identity.”