Several groups of about 20 people roamed the streets of Southtown last night with lighted, flowery leis. Some had more than their fair share of drinking, laughing and chatting – but they weren't college kids on a pub-crawl, most were members and friends of the Downtown Alliance, participating in the 9th Annual Urban Spaces Tour. Approximately 180 "Very Urban People" – according to their name tags – from all over San Antonio took a tour of homes and businesses in an area that has been called the "Lone Star Arts District," just south of South Alamo Street on Probandt, Cevallos and South Flores Street.
The tour showcased spaces that also fell into the Alliance's Live, Work, Eat, and Play motto, starting with "play" at SAY Sí, the non-profit arts program. From here, guests of the tour were served h'ordeuvres, beer and wine and given a tour of the facilities which provide middle and high school students with a place to develop artistic and social skills.
"The tour is trying to bring people who are curious about what's going on downtown right into the heart of it," said Downtown Alliance board members Debra Maltz. "It takes a certain personality to want live a more compact lifestyle ... this is their chance to see what it's like."
The tour route led guests through about three city blocks and lasted just under three hours.
"It's good to see a variety of different things that make a neighborhood a community, " Maltz said.
From Say Si, the tour continued on to Cevallos Modern Contemporary Homes, a small complex of low-maintenance, single-family detached homes that is a prime example of residential infill development.
The offices of Alamo Architects and courtyard-connected OCO Architects are, naturally, some of the most beautifully designed re-purposed warehouse work spaces in San Antonio. Sustainable architecture and design features such as xeriscaped courtyards, recycled materials and natural lighting were on display.
Cleary Zimmermann Engineers, a consulting engineer firm for electric, mechanical, and plumbing systems, office in what was once a branch office and warehouse for a truck and farming equipment company. Like that of Alamo and OCO Architects, its office space is wide-open and pays homage to its past with exposed structural material.
What was once the Peden Iron and Steel Company on South Flores Street, is now home to one of the newest loft complexes in the SoFlo industrial area, the Steel House Lofts.
At the South End Lofts, Ken Hack led the tour through his home. Hack and his wife, Cindi, moved downtown from Medina Lake where, he said, "We used to just feed deer." Now, they are immersed in downtown culture and even started hosting a weekly public get-together with friends and community members downtown, Thirsty Thursdays.
"We went from almost getting divorced to being teenagers again," Hack said of the transition to downtown life, "The social dynamics have changed, we spend more time together now."
Cevallos Lofts is officially opening its own mini-grocery store on the ground floor today, adding yet another amenity to the loft complex which already boasts a pool, gym, laundry facility, and lounges.
The tour ended with a reception at Casa Hernan, Chef Johnny Hernandez' home, office, and event venue. The art and architecture selected by Hernandez highlights Mexican culture.