San Antonians wanting to review and comment on the latest design concepts proposed for the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project gathered inside the boardroom of the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) Friday for a public input forum.
The goal of the forum was to collect feedback on the design concepts recently approved by Bexar County Commissioners. Commissioners have yet to approve construction of the proposals, pending a final review of the expected costs of implementation.
“We would like to use the comments that were shared here today to help in the prioritization of these elements put forward as a part of this approved design by the Commissioners Court,” SARA General Manager Suzanne Scott told the Rivard Report after the forum. “The County is wanting to see, of all these various elements, what the community feels are the most important to the community.”
Presentations by Steve Tillotson from Muñoz & Company, the project’s lead architectural development firm, and Carrie Brown, the San Antonio River Authority Art Curator, showcased the approved designs that will stretch along the creek from Houston to Cesar Chavez streets. They detailed how the proposed design elements sought to communicate the 300-year history of San Antonio from the vantage point of San Pedro Creek, and the various cultures and civilizations that utilized it.
Participants were provided with comment cards asking them to list their three favorite design and public art elements. An additional section gave space for comments to be added.
Following the presentations, Scott moderated an open discussion where attendees were encouraged to ask questions and provide feedback on the renderings. Out of roughly 25 questions asked and comments offered, a few recurrent themes emerged.
“I think there was a broad representation of stakeholder groups, but primarily business owners, the art community, historical groups, preservation groups were all here today,” Scott said. “Several people indicated that they felt maybe there was too many design elements.”
Penelope Speier, a public artist in San Antonio, told the Rivard Report that, in her view, there were too many different elements “fighting with one another.” Her statement echoed similar concerns asserting that the number of propositions were “visually noisy” and “overwhelming.”
“I wanted to contribute to the editing process,” Speier said, “because I feel like people are well intentioned, but it needs a lot of editing.”
Another concern was that the pursuit to communicate the history of San Pedro Creek lacked continuity.
“The continuity came up a couple of times,” Scott said. “That there [should be] more of a ribbon of continuity through the design.”
Unlike other successful linear parks, notably the High Line in New York City, the designers could do more to smoothly tie the varying narratives together, participants said. One of the suggestions provided to remedy the issue was to leave certain spaces open for future development.
“Maybe having some of the elements [could] be more temporary versus permanent,” Scott said.
Other individuals asked about the possibility of having rotating art, or allowing for more space where temporary sculptures or short performance pieces could be hosted.
Others asked, and stated, that the linear park should not just simply comply to standards established by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but be ADA friendly. They requested that the developers visit other reportedly ADA friendly sites in the city to see how they had made handicapped San Antonians feel welcome.
Safety was another issue. One man asked what considerations had been given to the fortification of bridges and walkways. Centro San Antonio CEO Pat DiGiovanni suggested that the developers go beyond complying with Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) standards by reviewing their designs with an independent safety consultant.
Various other comments and questions surrounded topics such as the impact of nighttime projections on wildlife, restroom options, connections to commerce, the depiction and representation of women, and cultural representation.
The comments and questions will be collected and reviewed by the County Commissioners before they give their final approval over implementation, according to the Co-Chair of the project’s Citizens Oversight Committee Jerry Geyer. Still, he wishes that this sort of session could have occurred before the designs were sent to the Commissioners for conceptual approval.
The final Commissioners Court approval will be given in the coming weeks. Construction on the second segment of the first phase is predicted to begin in 2018. Completion is predicted for the summer of 2019.