San Antonio's future is bright. As evident from Thursday night's new downtown brand launch – which was hosted by Centro San Antonio – tech workers, young professionals, and locals are committed to showcasing the city's ever-evolving history and culture.
Recently, San Antonio was listed as one of the five most underrated cities in the United States, along with places like Pittsburg, Birmingham, Raleigh, and Salt Lake City. The Huffington Post report, which gathered information from Condé Nast Traveler, ranked San Antonio as number three on the list, and listed the Briscoe Western Art Museum, the Pearl Brewery Complex, the Spanish Colonial Missions, and Hotel Emma as a few of the many exciting destinations that are propelling San Antonio's fame as a "destination city."
"...we are one of the top five underrated cities in America," said Centro San Antonio President and CEO Pat DiGiovanni Thursday, as he spoke on the importance of a brand for downtown San Antonio.
"Frankly, I like underrated. That means we can ... really work hard to really propel our city. We've got a progressive future, steeped in our long and historic past. We're innovative people and yet we're deeply rooted in the beautiful story of our culture."
Centro San Antonio's new branding effort aims to create a cohesive vision for the city, one where locals and visitors alike can relate to certain themes, which will then help them define and tell the city's story.
"Our progress has been evident in recent years, and that's because we're fighting for our future," DiGiovanni said. "Our youth culture is alive and well, (we have) one of the fastest growing Millennial populations in the entire United States."
"But that is changing," she stated in a Friday email to the Rivard Report. "Consider our growing tech district, (the) revitalization of downtown, Lone Star Brewery, EPIcenter, Hemisfair redevelopment, World Heritage Site Missions, culinary, arts and entertainment assets – the momentum and awareness is building for San Antonio.
Infused with history and authenticity, the city's story is unfolding, Saucedo-Herra added. People around the world "are taking notice and discovering San Antonio as a city that’s true to itself, inviting to others, and aspiring to greatness.”
TechBloc CEO David Heard recognizes that San Antonio's momentum is important, but believes it's also important to take pause and not forget the challenges that are ahead.
"Our belief at TechBloc is that our city still has a long way to go in joining the upper-tier of cities that are magnets for the kind of talent that we will need to attract and retain to build a prosperous future economy," Heard told the Rivard Report Friday. "Momentum is finally on our side, but the challenge is to build and maintain that momentum and to realize that as much as we are proud of the recent developments, we still need to build and compete with top metro areas in the country and across the world – they are not standing still either."
San Antonio's label as an "underdog city" is one that many people embrace positively. While it's clear that people are apt to compare the city to Austin, some locals have stressed the importance of each place keeping its unique identity.
"We have small town vibes in a metropolitan city," DiGiovanni said Thursday. "We have a community that has amazing neighborhoods, big city options and offerings. We're not weird like Austin, we're real. San Antonio is real."
The Rivard Report spoke to many locals at Centro SA's brand launch Thursday night and asked them what their thoughts were on San Antonio's future. Several out-of-towners, such as Dan Cumming, who is a young professional from Austin, also showed up to the festivities.
"I'm from Austin, and I'm just here for the weekend, but I like what I see here and I want to be more involved in downtown San Antonio," Cumming said. "I think there's a lot of culture here, a lot of life, vibrancy, and music."
DiGiovanni, Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), and Saucedo-Herrera – the main speakers at Thurday's downtown brand launch – also touched upon the Zona Cultural and the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project, which have had people buzzing as the city prepares for its Tricentennial celebrations in May 2018.
"The Tricentennial celebration is really close," DiGiovanni said. "It's an amazing and monumental moment in our history, a celebration of our heritage and the culture that will bring San Antonians together to celebrate our 300th anniversary."
In large part, the Tricentennial celebrations will help tell the history of the city and portray its growth over the years.
"You know, we've never tried to be another city," Saucedo-Herrera said Thursday. "We're authentic and we embrace our history and let it inform our future."
As for San Antonio being among the top "most underrated" cities in the country, Heard told the Rivard Report that it's much better to be underrated than overrated. San Antonio prides itself in being real and authentic, Heard said, and part of that means keeping people grounded.
To him, "underrated" connotes that there are exciting things that are under-appreciated or undiscovered.
"I hope we always remain a city that’s substance over hype," Heard said. "And generally, although these (national) lists are fun and interesting to put together and talk about, ultimately, when we just get about the business of building a great city and focus on what's happening behind the scenes, then it will get recognized over time.
"It will be found and discovered and that story will get told.”
Top image: Director of Real Estate at Hemisfair Omar Gonzales speaks to his journey that led him back to San Antonio. Photo by Scott Ball.