Nearly two months have passed since voters turned out to overwhelmingly support all six 2017 municipal bond propositions, and we here at Centro San Antonio want to say, “Thank you.”

With voters’ approval of several transformational projects fresh in our minds, we should all imagine what downtown could look like five years from now. That is exactly what Centro officials did nearly two years ago, before the bond process even started. We imagined what could be and took steps to make it happen.

Eighteen months ago, Centro convened a volunteer group of community-minded citizens to look at the forthcoming bond planning process in a non-traditional way. The mission of this group, called the catalytic bond committee and chaired by La Familia Cortez Restaurants Chief Operating Officer Pete Cortez and Overland Partners Principal Madison Smith, was to develop recommendations for and champion compelling projects with the potential to transform downtown and materially impact the entire city.

The committee’s purpose was threefold: to envision a bond investment that would transform our city; to leave a bold legacy; and build a new model for community engagement.

Representatives of a diverse constituency, ranging from business owners to leaders of civic and neighborhood organizations, came together in a strategic partnership with the City to offer their best thinking on how the bond planning process could yield the greatest impact on our city – and the greatest return on investment.

Our goal was to build community equity that will last for generations. The result is an investment plan that unites previously unrelated bond initiatives within a single strategic framework to create citywide impact.

This was no easy task. The committee endeavored to provide a unified voice of civically engaged downtown stakeholders. Members of the catalytic bond committee were asked to leave their own agendas and preconceived notions at the door. They were also asked to think broadly about which public investments would lead to the greatest impact for our city.

Dozens of ideas were generated. Common themes began to surface such as connectivity, leveraging existing resources, and capitalizing on our history and culture. A set of guiding principles were developed that included: creating citywide impact and appeal; leveraging funding and creating economic development potential; strengthening the cultural landscape; enhancing important synergies and physical connections; and generating a positive impact on San Antonio’s identity and vibrancy.

Throughout the process, we challenged ourselves to think aspirationally about the impact large public investments could have on the future of San Antonio – especially if these investments were expected to do more than satisfy basic infrastructure needs.

The committee found consensus in three transformational projects:

  • Broadway Cultural Corridor – one of San Antonio’s great gateways
  • Hemisfair – one of the world’s great urban parks
  • Zona Cultural/San Pedro Creek – a crossroads of culture, commerce, and community

Our projects were vetted and embraced by the City, reviewed by the citizen bond committees, and approved by the mayor and City Council members and, most importantly, the voters.

Thanks to your support, downtown San Antonio will receive more than $140 million in investment for these three projects and create new and exciting destinations for all San Antonians – destinations that will inspire and reinvigorate one of the city’s oldest and iconic regional centers.

However, our work is not over yet. Centro will stay engaged with City officials and neighbors on how to strategically move forward with each project. We urge the community to stay engaged as well. We will post public meetings on our digital platforms and in our weekly newsletter. Great things are happening downtown, and we are proud that Centro played such a key role. We cannot do this without your input and belief in the vision for a downtown that benefits the entire San Antonio community.

Pat DiGiovanni

Pat DiGiovanni is a recently retired executive of Centro San Antonio, a nonprofit organization focused on building a vibrant and prosperous downtown. He was the organization’s CEO and also oversaw the...