3 thoughts on “Spreading Urban Design Into San Antonio’s Suburbia

  1. Suburban retrofit is necessary. That is a major component of the city’s comprehensive planning. However, retrofitting while continue the same pattern of low-density, single-use development at the fringe of the urban area is still unsustainable and unwise.

    The discussion on suburban retrofit should be paired with another discussion that we’ve shown less interest in beginning. That second discussion is how to dramatically slow or stop sprawl development. One of the leading hesitations to taking up this discussion is private property rights.

    I suggest sprawl development can be slowed or stopped without infringing private property rights. Instead, it can be slowed or stopped by stopping public investment in the infrastructure needed to support land development.

    Research shows, and the CoSA argues, that sprawl development does not create enough value to pay for expanded city services or infrastructure maintenance. The growing cost of deferred maintenance supports those arguments. The city has an obligation to maintain existing infrastructure, but we do not have an obligation to build new roads and utilities in anticipation of growth. Nor should the city have an obligation of assuming maintenance responsibility for privately developed infrastructure, especially when the surrounding development does not have sufficient value to sustain the infrastructure. Doing so translates growth projections into growth reality.

    Not only is the retrofit conversation important, but this conversation should be expanded to a moratorium on capital expenditures for new road capacity and utilities.

  2. In San Antonio, much of the ‘retrofitting’ work could mean cost-effective approaches to (re)connecting residential areas within the 410 loop with downtown and surrounding sites including (currently designed and operated as drive-in and drive-out) commercial sites around the City.

    As a starting point, building the additional 32mi of planned multi-use ‘hike and bike’ trail west and south as envisioned with the Howard W. Peak ‘Ring’ Greenway System will connect and create new catalyst sites running to:

    – Blanco Junction (south of Hildebrand)
    – Fredericksburg Rd Deco District
    – Avenida Guadalupe
    – Lackland Air Force Base / Wolff Municipal Stadium
    – Pearsall Park
    – Toyota / San Antonio Speedway
    – Brooks City Base

    ‘Retrofitting’ could also mean improving walking connections as well as VIA transit integration ( comfortable and frequent curb or otherwise well-integrated service) at major mall or ‘big box’ sites including:

    (Route 1)
    – Alamodome / Convention Center
    – Crossroads Mall / Wonderland of the Americas
    – UTSA Health Science Center
    – UTSA Main
    – Vineyard Shopping Center
    – Northwoods Shopping Center
    – SAT airport
    – Quarry Market
    – Alamodome / Convention Center

    (Route 2)
    – Alamodome / Convention Center
    – South Park Mall
    – Traders Village
    – Alamo Draft House / HEB Plus (Westlakes Landing)
    – Walmart Super Center (Richland Hills / NSA)
    – Ingram Park Mall
    – Crossroads Mall / Wonderland of the Americas
    – Alamodome / Convention Center

    As suggested above, San Antonio has yet to tap the potential for limited stop circular bus routes (two-direction) to connect and transform major drive-in and drive-out commercial sites into spaces supporting dense and walkable development and less car-dependent if not car-free living.

    The two circular and limited stop bus routes outlined above, run every 20-to-30 minutes in both directions like rail lines, would put most sites within 40 minutes of downtown or other site listed, with the Alamodome and Crossroads Mall as transfer points and all sites connecting with more local services and pedestrian paths.. The 13 sites listed as well as the ATT Center (envisioning transit improvements along Houston St to downtown) could form important catchments for more transit-oriented development as well as supporting their current commercial functions (which many neighbors already walk or ride bus to).

    Resources

    https://twitter.com/tirpakma/status/609037164580491265

    http://urbanfinland.com/2014/10/21/city-of-boulevards-or-city-of-malls-urban-transport-infrastructure-retrofits-are-changing-the-urban-landscape-in-helsinki-and-tampere/

  3. I am a long-time resident at the edge of Castle Hills – near NW Military & Lockhill Selma. I work downtown and gave up my car about 15 years ago (green). Within walking distance (1 mi.) I have a great grocery store (Alon HEB), a vegetarian restaurant, my breakfast taco place, a drug store, a hardware store, two bakeries, a Sunday farmers market, numerous restaurants, and Hardberger Park. There are three bus lines very close by which get me not only to work, but shopping & entertainment. NW Military has bicycle lanes. Castle Hills is working to utilize empty spaces in a smart manner. Most of my friends and acquaintances assume I would rather live downtown, but as yet, downtown does not have all these life conveniences within walking distance. Last Saturday night I walked a quarter mile to a comedy show at a nearby restaurant. This bit of suburbia has a lot going for it.

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