City Council approved the donation of 19 City-owned properties to the San Antonio River Authority on Thursday as part of the $206.8 million San Pedro Creek Improvements Project.
The 19 parcels are valued at $4.1 million, and include slivers and parcels of land, infrastructure, and parking lots located alongside the downtown segment of San Pedro Creek. Their transfer gives the River Authority the necessary right-of-way to widen the creek, install pathways, and connect the creek to the street level. The parcels range in size from slightly more than .01-acre to about .7-acre. The transaction will result in the loss of some public parking spots, but the SPC Improvements Project’s anticipated billion-dollar economic impact makes the trade one that City Council unanimously supported.
The City of San Antonio is the lead property donor for the San Pedro Creek project, but River Authority officials are meeting with 15 private property owners who own an additional 19 parcels of creekside land in hopes of negotiating deals.
“We would love private property owners to donate as the City has done here. That is one reason why this action by the City was so important because many property owners were saying, ‘Why am I going to donate of the City hasn’t donated theirs?’” said SARA General Manager Suzanne Scott after the vote. “I think it gives a good signal to the private property owners that the City has now stepped up as that lead donor, and hopefully, that will stimulate private property owners to do the same.”
SARA is in the first stages of discussions with private property owners.
“All of the property owners that we have met with have been very supportive of the project,” she said.
The SPC Improvements Project started as a $175 million project, of which Bexar County funded $125 million, but as the design and engineering estimates have developed, the project cost has increased to $206.8 million. The City will consider funding a portion of the project with its 2017 Bond Program.
The San Antonio River Authority hired the Mexican Landscape Architect Mario Schjetnan of Grupo de Diseño Urbano earlier this month to work with the design team after receiving negative feedback on elements of the design by Muñoz & Co. For Schjetnan, a crucial element for the project is to implement the creek into the surrounding urban landscape. Whereas the River Walk is far below street level, the San Pedro Creek has more opportunities to blend with the streetscape.
“(San Pedro Creek) is very different (than the River Walk) because of the … intimacy and the relationship with the street level,” said Schjetnan, who attended the City council meeting. “It is more accessible to families and it is more accessible to users.”
Schjetnan is meeting with creekside property owners, including Weston Urban, which is developing the new Frost Bank Tower, and the Linda Pace Foundation, which is providing the funds to build the Ruby City Museum, to flesh out details about the integration of their properties with the creek.
“The challenge is: how do you bring nature back to the city?” he said.
But Schjetnan is not limiting his attention to new properties. He’s also keeping existing structures in mind.
“The Governor’s Palace has a magnificent patio that definitely needs to be connected,” he said.
San Pedro Creek also runs through the Zona Cultural, a newly-designated cultural district that stretches from Main Plaza to the east, just past the UTSA Downtown Campus to the west, Houston Street to the north, and Nueva Street to the south.
While most cities have only two levels of perception: the street and building levels, San Antonio has three: the street, building, and creek/river level, Councilmember Roberto Treviño (D1) noted.
“It’s important to connect all three levels,” Treviño said.
Councilmembers Ray Saldaña (D4) and Shirley Gonzalez (D5) were absent Thursday morning. The vote in favor was a unanimous 8-0.
*Top image: The San Pedro Creek flows near a piece of property behind 1901 South Alamo that City Council will consider giving to SARA in November. Photo by Joan Vinson.
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