The City installed a "Z Crossing" on Broadway Street in early 2016 to improve safety for pedestrians. Photo courtesy of the City of San Antonio.

Improving Broadway, Hemisfair streets and roads in the western side of downtown all received support from several residents at the first meeting of a committee charged with studying street, bridge and sidewalk projects ahead of the City’s 2017 bond election.

Several dozen people attended the citizens committee Tuesday night at the Central Library. It was the first chance for the 30 appointed committee members to review 59 street, sidewalk and bridge projects that City staffers recommended for the $850 million bond. The streets portion represents $450 million, or 53%, of the entire proposed bond.

The staff recommendations are based on input gathered from the City Council and from residents at public meetings. Like with the other committees focusing on four other packages of proposals under the bond, City Manager Sheryl Sculley noted the use of a “rough proportionality” rule to ensure all parts of town get consideration from the bond even though those areas are different.

The proposal with the biggest price tag is the $43 million enhancement of Broadway from Houston Street to Hildebrand Avenue. The aim is to develop and implement, as the City states, “a complete street concept,” with roadway reconstruction, curbs, sidewalks, driveway approaches, bicycle amenities, and lighting, drainage and traffic improvements.

“The street itself is in dire need to be reworked into what we call a complete street,” said Mike Frisbie, Transportation and Capital Improvements director. Improving the three-mile segment of Broadway, Frisbie said, would better accommodate motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit.

The City would look at improving aesthetics along Broadway through landscaping and other means. Local money for the project would be leveraged with state and federal funds, he said.

The Broadway project would be carried out in coordination with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Once it is done working on Broadway, TxDOT would return the thoroughfare to the City for continued maintenance. The project would also give stakeholders a chance to reimagine Broadway as a modernized major north-south corridor with a variety of amenities.

Some other notable projects that City staff has recommended for the downtown area are:

  • Rebuilding Commerce Street between Santa Rosa and Frio streets ($14 million)
  • Rebuilding Commerce from Santa Rosa to Saint Mary’s Street ($6 million)
  • Upgrading San Saba between Dolorosa and West Martin streets ($7 million)
  • Reconstructing Santa Rosa from Cesar Chavez Boulevard to Houston Street ($14 million)
  • Rebuilding South Alamo Street from Market Street to Cesar Chavez ($9 million)
  • Restoring Hemisfair’s pre-1968 World’s Fair grid of internal streets ($5 million)
  • Rebuilding Main Avenue and Soledad Street between Pecan and Navarro streets ($12 million)
  • Developing a pedestrian corridor along Camaron and Kingsbury streets from Houston Street to North Flores Street/Fox Tech High School ($4.5 million)
  • Street improvements as part of the Alamo-area master planning process ($13.7 million)

These projects except for Camaron include pedestrian amenities and streetscape improvements. Hemisfair, Commerce Street and Main/Soledad would continue projects from the 2012 bond. Bike amenities would be added to Main.

Downtown for SA: Downtown Projects Have Citywide Impact

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A handful of residents at Tuesday’s meeting stated their support for the Broadway and Hemisfair projects, as well as improvements in the western portion of downtown. Supporters said these projects are critical toward maintaining economic revitalization efforts around downtown, and to cultural redevelopment in the urban core, benefiting the entire city.

One of those supporters is architect/master planner Madison Smith, who co-chaired a volunteer group convened by Centro San Antonio to look at potentially significant bond projects that could transform downtown and San Antonio in the long run.

The group of residents concluded that those projects impacting Hemisfair, Broadway, Zona Cultural, and San Pedro Creek merit strong support.

The group sees Broadway as a vibrant residential and commercial corridor, Hemisfair as a series of beloved public spaces surrounded by a walkable neighborhood, and Zona Cultural as community where business and culture blend to celebrate San Antonio’s arts, food, music and heritage.

“We believe every great city has a great core,” Smith said, adding these projects altogether would strengthen San Antonio’s center. “We believe part of the bond should have projects that move us, move the needle, beyond (street) repair and maintenance.”

Smith and other members from that group have formed Downtown for SA, a website to promote those proposed projects. The website also keeps visitors in tune with upcoming bond committee meetings, news about downtown growth, and a way for visitors to communicate with their local elected leaders.

Smith’s co-chair, Pete Cortez, said the bond represents a chance for San Antonio to go from being a good city to being a great city, and that downtown “is everyone’s neighborhood.”

Diane Coliz, owner of Red Star Property Management, echoed Smith and Cortez’s comments, saying all of these downtown projects would positive affect San Antonio. Longtime downtown advocate Ben Brewer agreed.

“Many of the projects proposed for the downtown area would dramatically increase the experience and comfort of the pedestrian,” Brewer said.

Hardberger Park Land Bridge

The proposed land bridge connecting the eastern and western portions of Hardberger Park received some vocal support at Tuesday’s street committee meeting. The 155-foot-wide, 1,200-foot-long land bridge would receive $7.5 million in City funds each from the parks and streets packages under the 2017 bond, in addition to private funds.

“There’s really no good way for people or wildlife to cross Wurzbach Parkway,” Frisbie said.

Park user Diane Warren said a land bridge would help not only people and wildlife, but first responders in the case of an emergency inside the park. Resident Colleen Waguespack agreed, saying land bridges have been successfully used in Canada, and at Hardberger Park would meet numerous guiding principles in the SA Tomorrow plan. Resident John Linkhart noted the land bridge was one of the community’s most popular parts of the park master planning process.

A few other notable proposals in the streets package include:

  • Widen and rebuild Prue Road between Babcock Road and Laureate Drive ($27.6 million)
  • Widen and rebuild Bulverde Road from Butterleigh to north of Quiet Meadows ($20 million)
  • Widen and rebuild DeZavala Road from Interstate 10 to Lockhill-Selma Road ($15.5 million)
  • Reconstruct Goliad Road from Fair Avenue to East Southcross ($12.9 million)

Frisbie pledged he and fellow staffers would provide the committee with more details about recommended projects and about improvements that some other residents suggested elsewhere around town. The Streets Bond Committee next meets Oct. 25. Committee Co-Chair Jim Reed said his group should carefully consider, then prioritize, the projects.

“There are needs. There’s just not enough money to go around,” he said.

Committee Co-Chair David Heard noted the importance of communication among committee members, their neighbors and City staff.

“We all want a better San Antonio that needs to be open to all,” Heard said.

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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.