The final designs for the first phase of the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project should be finalized by Sept. 15, project officials said Thursday at the San Pedro Creek Subcommittee meeting.
Steve Tillotson, principal at Muñoz & Company, the project’s lead architectural firm, presented a few new design renderings to the subcommittee, as well as a few minor design changes to existing ones.
The newest rendering presented was for the portion of San Pedro Creek from Camp to South Alamo streets (see top image), where the creek transitions from the urban, concrete channels into a more natural state. Designers envision two walkways, one close to the water and another at street level. The west bank will not feature any kind of pedestrian access or paseos, Tillotson said, but rather incorporate plants into the design for a more scenic feel.
Other renderings illustrate designs for segments of the creek from its inlet to Dolorosa Street. The project team is still reviewing design suggestions for that area by Grupo de Diseño Urbano, a Mexico City-based firm led by Principal and Landscape Architect Mario Schjetnan.
The design for the portion of the creek looking south toward the Alameda Theatre (see right) will largely remain the same, Tillotson said, but will feature a better ramp connection to Houston Street, individual benches surrounding the trees, and a “more open plaza.” Designers also are considering installing a “drink ledge” along the creek bank where visitors can stand and have lunch.
The changes were mainly made due to the continuing cost assessments performed by the Sundt/Davila Joint Venture. The firms are already analyzing $5 million worth of potential cost reductions and are currently in contract negotiations with the project’s administrator, the San Antonio River Authority, for the Construction Manager at Risk position.
San Pedro Creek Improvements Project Co-Chair Jerry Geyer was worried about the “risk factors” involved with moving forward in the project without having an official contractual agreement with the two firms. Jeff Mitchell, senior structural engineer at HDR Engineering Inc., which is assisting with the project design, noted the Sundt/Davila J.V.’s commitment to the project and said that he doesn’t anticipate any problems.
“Sundt/Davila is very aggressive in working (on the project) in light of not having been awarded the contract at this point,” Mitchell said, adding that their main priority is finishing the 100% design for the project’s first phase by Sept. 15. Project officials also are continuing to apply for and acquire permits for construction. They still anticipate phase one completion by the city’s Tricentennial in May 2018.
The River Authority hopes to finalize those contract negotiations by Aug. 31, he added, in time for the Sundt/Davila J.V. to finish their cost assessments and for the project’s groundbreaking to take place on Thursday, Sept. 8. The event will take place at the Fox Tech High School football field from 6:30-8:30 p.m. and will feature a historical and cultural operetta, complete with a storyline developed by John Phillip Santos and music and ballet performances by local groups. The event is part of the inaugural World Heritage Festival slated for Sept. 9-11, which will celebrate the anniversary of the World Heritage designation of the city’s Spanish-colonial Missions and the Alamo with various educational and recreational activities.
Last week, the Historic Design and Review Commission approved plans to demolish the former Dollar General at 323 W. Commerce St. to make way for a plaza and creekside paseo along San Pedro Creek.
“The Dollar General will be removed to create a sunken garden, like a little island, with trees planted and some water terraces, so this will have lots of sounds of water cascading,” Tillotson told the subcommittee.
Pedestrians will have access to stairs and a ramp leading up to Commerce Street, where large flag-like structures will extend high above to provide shade cover along the edge of the road. Tillotson said that designers anticipate the area to also serve as a “performance venue where spontaneous or very small events could happen.” Visitors will be able to watch the performances from nearby terrace seating.
The River Authority, design team, Bexar County officials, and private property owners continue to collaborate on portions of the creek that will impact existing structures and coming developments such as the County courthouse, Frost Bank Tower on Houston Street, the Pace Foundation‘s facility further south, and the new federal courthouse on Nueva Street. Tillotson described the creek section next to the County courthouse as “a bit of a gorge” due to its more narrow, rocky features.
Meanwhile, on July 8, the River Authority sent out a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to commission an artist to complete the $750,000 large, permanent work of art in the Tree of Life Plaza. Public art consultants Renee Piechocki, Jennifer McGregor, and Ricardo Barreto are crafting the creek’s public art program. The art piece would be completed by the city’s Tricentennial celebrations in May 2018.
Artist applications are due by Friday, Aug. 12, after which the San Pedro Creek Art Advisory Committee, which is comprised of a mix of community members appointed by the County, will review the submissions and present a shortlist of finalists to County commissioners on Tuesday, Aug. 23. The public can vote on the finalists at the San Pedro Creek groundbreaking event on Sept. 8.
Last week, HDRC approved several amendments to Chapter 35 of the City Code relating to RIO-7, which includes design requirements for any new structures built on or near the creek. For a map of RIO-7, click here.
Tillotson said that the team is still hashing out more detailed design elements for each portion of the creek, but “the final narrative and graphics don’t happen until you’re in construction.” Conceptually, he said, they envision wall-mounted plaques, carved letters in natural and cast stone, pictorial representations in tile mosaics, and sandblasted relief on the concrete walls.
Geyer suggested adding a technological element to the design scheme, so that visitors aren’t bogged down by lengthy historical information along the creek and can instead “have enough to get (them) started” and access the rest of the information on their smart phone or tablet.
Top image: Portion of San Pedro Creek from Camp to South Alamo streets. Rendering courtesy of Muñoz & Company.