The City of San Antonio will host its third World Heritage Symposium on Saturday, Feb. 6, this time to discuss perhaps the most controversial topic when talking about the future of the city’s Spanish colonial Missions: land use and development.
Because there are so many passionate opinions about what kind of businesses, parkland, housing, educational signage should – or shouldn’t – be allowed around the recently designated World Heritage sites, the City is providing a forum for the community to share ideas for the future use of the land surrounding the Missions to identify possible courses of action.
The symposium will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at the Harlandale Independent School District’s STEM High School, 4040 Apollo Rd.
The City has also created an online survey to collect community priorities for infrastructure and land use surrounding the Missions. Click here to take the survey.
Interest from developers looking to utilize the land for apartment buildings has triggered a strong response from some Southside community members who see such developments as a threat to the Missions’ cultural value and hope to preserve the areas as parkland and/or limit development.
Others see the World Heritage designation as an opportunity for historically neglected neighborhoods in the Southside to finally benefit from business, employment, and development opportunities that an influx of local, national, and international visitors could bring.
Multi-family projects, however, have allowed housing to dominate most of the land use conversation in recent months. 210 Development Group received approval from City Council last year to construct a multi-family housing project next to Mission Concepción that would replace a blighted, abandoned St. John’s Seminary. The local real estate development company also had preliminary plans for an apartment near Mission San José, but the project was never submitted for approval after protest from neighbors and community leaders.
According to City staff, the coming symposium will focus on balancing preservation and protection of the Missions and their adjacent neighborhoods while creating appropriate opportunities for local businesses. Attendees can expect to interact in both large and small group discussions, with time at the end of the forum for a report of the day’s findings.
The last symposium, held on Dec. 5, was focused on the “visitor experience” of the Missions and how factors such as wayfinding, infrastructure and small business development could affect that experience. The heated topic of land use frequently seeped into the conversation.
Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) said she has faith that the symposia series will help City leaders and community members work together to see the Missions and surrounding areas reach their full potential.
“These symposia are helping us as we embark on our future,” she said. “Together, we can honor and preserve our World Heritage sites and advance the economic opportunities long needed in the areas.”
The World Heritage designation was awarded to the five Spanish colonial Missions, including the Alamo, by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee last summer, making it the first designation in Texas and the 23rd in the United States.
*Top image: Building massing and site plan for the proposed Mission Concepción apartment and office building complex. Image courtesy of Moule & Polyzoides.