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During one weekend in March, construction crews hoisted a completely assembled pedestrian skybridge into place over a downtown street.
The skybridge connects a new parking garage with the historic headquarters of H-E-B to provide safe passage for pedestrians and is meant to serve as a symbolic gateway to the King William neighborhood.
But work on the bridge and the six-level garage continues, now spanning almost a year, and won’t be complete until later this summer, said an H-E-B spokeswoman.
One reason is the complexity of the project, say engineers. The 750-car garage is fairly standard, there’s a unique louver system on the corners of the structure that called for some coordination with suppliers, said Geoffrey Raasch, design engineer in the Houston office of Walker Consultants. But then there’s the skybridge itself.
“The most challenging aspect was during the bridge erection,” Raasch said. Rather than framing the bridge across the road piece by piece, which would have required closing the roadway for an indefinite amount of time, the bridge was brought to the site in three pieces, assembled, and lifted into place March 9 while most of us slept.
The skybridge is made of heavy-bolted steel plates, 160 feet long and 10 feet tall by 10 feet across. It stands 27 feet above the four-lane César Chávez Boulevard near Dwyer Avenue. The garage is situated along César Chávez between Dwyer and South Main and features façade screening and a rooftop shading trellis. Whiting-Turner is the general contractor for the project.
Ford, Powell & Carson, a San Antonio-based architectural firm, designed the skybridge to mimic historic bridges along the San Antonio River. The firm’s description of the skybridge notes the “human-scale detail in the steel-workers’ craft – the cast concrete elements with chipped edges, the stacked clay tile elements, and in the landscape planting. This project should be a delight for both pedestrians and vehicular traffic.”
The skybridge connects to H-E-B headquarters, located at the San Antonio Arsenal (established in 1859), which sits within the River Improvement Overlay District, the Arsenal Local Historic District, and near a designated local historic landmark. The King William Association’s architectural advisory board reviewed the proposal in December 2017 and voted to approve the design.
Though a representative of the San Antonio Conservation Society reminded the Historic and Design Review Commission that the group was opposed to skybridges in the past, commissioners unanimously approved the project on December 6, 2017, and construction began June 18.
A historical and notable bridges website, Bridgehunter, lists 18 pedestrian-only bridges in San Antonio.