River Authority Shows Progress on Construction of San Pedro Creek Culture Park

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Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

The bridge on West Houston Street is under construction for Phase 1's second segment of the San Pedro Creek project.

Standing on dirt and loose rocks along West Houston Street, Kerry Averyt explained that the San Antonio River Authority has tried to be a good neighbor during construction of San Pedro Creek Culture Park.

Construction of the linear park has required many road closures downtown, impacting area businesses. The river authority keeps an updated webpage of road closures on the San Pedro Creek Culture Park site.

“We affect businesses along Houston Street … and there’s no question, there’s some impact there,” said Averyt, the river authority’s senior engineer. “But we keep working and coordinating with all of our stakeholders up and down the creek to minimize it as much as possible.”

Averyt led a tour Thursday of a segment of San Pedro Creek Culture Park stretching from Houston to Nueva streets. Phase 1’s second segment is targeted for completion in November 2021. The price tag for Phases 1 and 2 of four planned phases is $260 million, Averyt said.

Historic preservation and respect for archeological exploration have influenced construction in a segment of the project that includes two historical landmarks: the 1949 Alameda Theater and the 18th-century Spanish Governor’s Palace. Construction has had to adapt to the occasional archeological dig, Project Manager Ryan Silbernagel said; there have been three digs in Calder Alley and one by the Spanish Governor’s Palace.

But the digs don’t delay construction, as archeologists are able to set up alongside construction, Silbernagel said.

“There haven’t been any major significant finds,” Silbernagel said. “Mostly a lot of pottery shards.”

Some of the more interesting cultural artifacts will eventually be displayed as part of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park, Averyt said.

Designers and engineers have also maintained many historic elements throughout the project. Averyt pointed to a fire escape on the side of the Alameda Theater that they decided to keep through its renovation.

“Originally we wanted to take that fire escape down, but this is a historic building, a historic structure,” he said. “It was a lot less complicated to leave that in place if we could.”

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

The original fire escape is preserved on the side of the Alameda Theater next to the future entertainment plaza.

The Historic and Design Review Commission approved the final renovation design for the theater in October; work is expected to begin early next year.

About 30 percent of a retaining wall in Calder Alley was salvaged to use in the creek project too, Silbernagel added.

This segment of the linear park will include two permanent art installations. In November, Bexar County commissioners selected Brooklyn artist Adam Frank’s design for an interactive light installation at a water wall along one of the paseos. A microphone picks up close-range sound, and people can manipulate the light reaction with what kind of noises they make. And further down the creek, the river authority is looking for artists to paint a five-panel mural, public art curator Carrie Brown said.

“We are just now starting the selection process … but we’re working closely with Bexar County to frame what the mural content will be,” Brown said.

The segment also will have an entertainment plaza by the Alameda Theater that can be utilized in many different ways, Brown said. Designers had considered building an amphitheater, but that would not have been as useful, she added.

“When you have an amphitheater, it’s an amphitheater, and that’s how you have to use it,” Brown said. “Now that we have a plaza, it’s much more flexible. We didn’t want to build something that wouldn’t be functional for people who would use it.”

Funding sources for Phases 3 and 4 of the San Pedro Creek project are still being identified by the river authority. Those phases are being planned and would extend the linear park to South Alamo Street. Bexar County has paid for the bulk of the project, while the 2017 municipal bond allocated $19.5 million to the linear park. The county also expects to receive some federal dollars from the Mission Reach project’s federal reimbursement.

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