The San Pedro Creek will soon be redeveloped into a linear park. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

City Council unanimously approved a measure Thursday to amend the City’s Unified Development Code and implement new design requirements for public and private properties situated near the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project.

As the project, which broke ground in September, enhances the creek and, thus, impacts surrounding businesses in the coming years, the design controls in the new district – River Improvement Overlay (RIO) District-7 – will ensure that changes to existing properties as well as all new developments properly complement the changing area.

I think it’s important to understand the impact that something like this – proper planning – will make (along the creek),” Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) said.

There are about 150 properties within the RIO-7 district, according to City staff. After the Zoning Commission determines the district’s boundaries, Council will vote to approve them. A map of the proposed boundaries is below. 

The proposed RIO-7 District boundaries.
The proposed RIO-7 District boundaries. Credit: Courtesy of the City of San Antonio

The RIO-7 design and development guidelines are similar to existing ones found in the city’s six other RIO overlay zones along the San Antonio River such as the Mission and Museum Reach, said Office of Historic Preservation Director Shanon Shea Miller.

Each RIO plan includes elements related to site design, landscaping, paving materials, and other basic building design principles she added.

“We’re also including building design requirements that reflect (the City’s) Downtown Design Guide,” she added. “It’s not really new standards that are being created, it’s applying those same building standards to the creek.”

The City hosted two public input meetings in the spring so that area property owners and stakeholders could provide feedback and inquire about the RIO-7 guidelines. Groups such as Bexar County, which is the primary funder of the San Pedro Creek project, the San Pedro Creek Advisory Committee, the King William Association, and the American Institute of Architects-San Antonio also weighed in on the plans.

“All bodies (involved) recommended approval of this overlay,” Miller said.

Much of the amendments to the City Unified Development Code for RIO-7 involve simply interchanging words like “river” and “River Walk” to “creek” and “San Pedro Creek,” Miller said. But there are other additions specific to development in the district, such as building height requirements, parking structures, signage, and pedestrian access along the creek.

The City and project partners anticipate an influx of development to occur as the creek transforms with paseos and bridges connecting major hubs in the urban core.

“The San Pedro Creek improvements are also going to spur a lot of economic development,” Miller said. “We want to make sure that whatever is going to be built along San Pedro Creek” will meet a high standard of development.

The main objectives for RIO-7 design code are listed below:

  1. Create a new linear, urban park along San Pedro Creek with distinct character areas that recognize the creeks historic and cultural importance to San Antonio.
  2. Encourage existing and new high quality pedestrian connections between the surrounding neighborhoods and the creek with pedestrian friendly streets, paseos, arcades, tree-alleys, and linear gardens connecting the high and low bank paseos to the surrounding neighborhoods.
  3. Develop a series of mixed-use districts along San Pedro Creek.
  4. Encourage good contemporary architecture and landscape architecture compatible with the historic character of San Pedro Creek.
  5. Encourage sensitive mixed-use buildings along with the reuse and rehabilitation of existing buildings.
  6. Enlarge the perceived boundaries of the linear park with publicly accessible open spaces along the creek right-of-way.
  7. Create unique, memorable places at the creek and street intersections.

Details on the design controls for other specific portions of the district can be found in the amended document here.

The $175 million San Pedro Creek Improvements Project, which has already gone over budget, will enhance about 2.2 or so miles of the creek with cultural amenities, public art, and walkways. The addition of a new RIO district for the creek will ensure that future developments integrate seamlessly into the transformative downtown project.

“Any time we’re making that significant of an investment we want to make sure we have … design along the creek that complements the public improvements … on the creek,” said Suzanne Scott, general manager of the San Antonio River Authority, which is managing the San Pedro Creek project.

“This has been a great collaborative effort and we really look forward to moving into the next step.”

Camille Garcia

Camille Garcia is a journalist born and raised in San Antonio. She formerly worked at the San Antonio Report as assistant editor and reporter. Her email is camillenicgarcia@gmail.com