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After months of extensive redesigns, the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project is back on schedule, according to officials. But before construction can begin, area stakeholders must first determine what, if any, new structures will be built along the creek.
Local property owners and stakeholders, who collectively own 320 parcels of creek-adjacent land, will have an opportunity to voice concerns and questions during the first River Improvement Overlay (RIO) meeting on Tuesday, March 1. The Subcommittee will review input on March 10. Then another input meeting is tentatively scheduled for March 29.
San Antonio River Authority officials said this would be the first of two property owner meetings held in quick succession throughout March. The first meeting will be held at the City’s Historic Preservation Office, at 901 S. Alamo, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. The rushed schedule for the $175 million project is meant to ensure that it’s completed by the Tricentennial celebrations in May 2018.
After the initial meetings with property owners, the project will enter a four month process with various City departments, giving the larger San Antonio community several opportunities to weigh in on the creek’s future.
“It’s in the interest of the project and the community that the guidelines be in place as soon as possible,” said the project’s lead architect Steve Tillotson, a principal at Muñoz & Co., during the San Pedro Creek Subcommittee meeting Thursday morning. “Construction is impending at this point, and we would like to foster the best level of development on the creek.”
City Council developed overlay development guidelines in 2002, and again in 2011, to ensure public input in major design projects. The current guidelines touch on six districts, the newest set of guideline specifically for San Pedro Creek will be dubbed “RIO 7.”
Tillotson and other design team members will review the guidelines and stakeholder input during the next San Pedro Creek subcommittee meeting, which are open to the public, on Thursday, March 10.
A final public input meeting is scheduled for March 29, but that could change if it becomes clear more time is needed to notify the public.
“This seems like a very compressed schedule,” said Ben Brewer, a San Pedro Creek subcommittee member who has spent several years working on previous RIO guidelines. The overlays could potentially impact zoning and land usage in the future, which requires a larger community conversation, he said, so two meetings in one month may not be enough time to effectively reach enough stakeholders.
Several team members are already familiar with the creek’s existing guidelines, Tillotson said, as well as the culture surrounding the creek and downtown San Antonio. The goal is to develop the area into something that is appropriate for the creek’s residents and visitors.
An expedited meeting schedule will help the City draft guidelines quickly, so recommendations can be shared and more public input gathered before construction begins late this summer.
“I think that it’s really the best we can do at this moment,” Tillotson said.
Art Program Seeking Art Consultant
A new public art program, created by the City, County, and River Authority, will play an important role in the appearance and design along San Pedro Creek. An arts advisory committee, approved by County Commissioners in late 2015, began the search this week for a consultant to help develop the yet unnamed art program. The art consultant will identify programming opportunities and permanent art media installations along the Creek reach using local, regional and international artists, and identify the financial support needed.
The committee issued a request for proposals on Wednesday evening to 17 local and national public art consultants. Consultant proposals will be submitted to the County, City, Art committee and the River Authority for evaluation on March 11.
“We’re taking a step back and opening the committee to all different types of art,” said SARA employee Bridget Hinze on Thursday.
Some subcommittee and Westside Creeks Restoration Oversight Committee members stressed that art and design along the creek should tie into the historical significance of the area and San Antonio’s history.
“The decisions we make now are going to be here for a long time,” said Westside Creeks Committee member Karen Wheeler.
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*Top Image: The view down to Alameda Theater along San Pedro Creek. Image courtesy of San Antonio River Authority