The City Council’s Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee unanimously voted Tuesday to recommend for approval a draft design manual that will guide development in the Mission Historic District.

The City’s Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) released the draft manual Oct. 9 for public comments. The City’s World Heritage Office (WHO) is a partner on the project, which is receiving input from The Lakota Group, a Chicago-based design, urban planning, and historic preservation firm.

The manual is tentatively scheduled for final approval by the Historic and Design Review Commission on Nov. 7, the Zoning Commission on Dec. 4, and the City Council on Dec. 11.

The design manual is site-specific to the Mission Historic District, which begins south of the east-west Union Pacific Railroad near Interstate 10. The district runs roughly along Mission Road, Presa Street, and Roosevelt Avenue south past Loop 410.

OHP Director Shanon Miller briefed the Council committee on the process Tuesday, saying the manual will be a comprehensive resource that reflects the unique and character-defining features across the South Side historic district.

The manual is crafted to demonstrate best practices in developing land in culturally sensitive areas. It will contain guidelines for exterior alterations and additions to buildings, signage, new residential construction, and landscape and site elements.

The document also aims to clarify the type of development that’s appropriate in the World Heritage area and maintain the integrity and authenticity of the World Heritage area and Mission Historic District while accommodating growth and new development.

The manual will be an important addition to historic design guidelines that the Council adopted in 2012, Miller said.

Miller explained that community engagement has been a key part of the year-long process to build the draft design manual.

Office of Historic Preservation Director Shanon Miller briefs the City Council’s Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee about the Mission Historic District design manual. Credit: Edmond Ortiz / San Antonio Report

“We worked on expanding on some of our existing programs like oral history collection, virtual mapping [to] really identify what’s important to the community,” she said.

The OHP and WHO also worked with a steering committee and focus group that communicated further with neighborhood associations, businesses, developers, architects, designers, and other stakeholders in the historic district.

Each section of the manual addresses a specific area of the historic district, covering particular local issues, opportunities and approaches to design.

The City and its project partners have followed four overriding principles in building a draft design manual:

  • Rehabilitation of existing resources and new development design should be of high quality;
  • Rehabilitation and new development should promote authenticity and creativity;
  • Identify, preserve and appropriately treat historic fabric from all development periods; and
  • Create people-friendly places and promote an active, vibrant community.

Councilwoman and committee member Rebecca Viagran (D3) said community members in the Mission Historic District look forward to a design manual specific to an area because “of its sense of arrival and sense of place, so we know where we are and that you’re in the World Heritage area.”

Councilman and committee Chairman Roberto Treviño (D1) thanked City staff and residents for their contributions to the design manual. He said the document will help guide treatment of existing features and future development across the historic district.

“It’s so vitally important for our rapidly growing city,” he said.

Public comments about the draft manual can be submitted here. A hard copy of the draft can be reviewed in person at the Mission Library, 3134 Roosevelt Ave., and at the District 3 constituent office, 3319 Sidney Brooks, Building 510.

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Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.