H. Douglas Steadman, known as the “savior” of the historic Hays Street Bridge, died early last month at 91. Because his funeral service is Wednesday, the City postponed its Historic Design and Review Commission meeting – which had been set for the same day – to Friday.
Steadman, a retired structural engineer, led restoration efforts in the 1990s for the Eastside bridge that was brought to San Antonio in the 1880s.
“Back then, a lot of us saw the bridge as an obsolete nuisance; a ‘bridge to nowhere,’” wrote Dave Pasley in a eulogy published by the San Antonio Express-News. “Steadman saw the bridge for what it could be and has become: an engineering landmark, a neighborhood connector, a source of community pride, a historic attraction and a destination gathering place.”
A funeral service for Steadman, according to his online obituary, will be held on Wednesday, March 7 at Porter Loring Mortuary Chapel at 11:30 a.m. Steadman died on Feb. 12.
Out of respect for his service, developer Mitch Meyer of Loopy Ltd. said he requested that Wednesday’s HRDC meeting to review the controversial apartment complex adjacent to the bridge be moved to Friday, 1 p.m.
“I met him a couple of times,” Meyer told the Rivard Report Tuesday afternoon. “I have a huge appreciation for Mr. Steadman and the amount of love he poured into the Hays Street Bridge. He was a great orator and explained things in an interesting way. I much appreciated his in-depth knowledge and history of the bridge. He was a smart, driven and amazing man and I will miss him being around. I really mean this.”
Some opposed to the project will attend the service, said Graciela Sánchez, executive director of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center.
“The struggle is still the same struggle,” Sanchez said of the years-long conflict between the City, developers, and preservationists. For many, the design of the building is not the issue, it’s whether there should be a private development on that land at all.
A lawsuit pending review or dismissal at the Texas Supreme Court argues that money raised by the community should have gone towards making the land a public park. Esperanza helped organize the Hays Street Bridge Restoration Group, which sued the city 2012, won its case, but then lost on appeals.
During a February public meeting hosted by Councilman Cruz Shaw (D2), whose district includes the bridge and much of the Eastside, new renderings were shown to residents. Some were receptive, and wanted to discuss specific design elements of the apartments that they said would revitalize a long-vacant industrial property and reduce area crime by bringing eyes to the surrounding streets.
Rent at the proposed apartments at 803 North Cherry Street will be less than $1,000 a month, developers said, to increase the housing inventory for urban core workers.
However, much of the conversation swirled around issues of how redevelopment of the rapidly changing neighborhood could impact some low-income residents.
The proposal, from local development firm Loopy Limited and designed by GRG Architecture, is for a five-story mixed-use structure, including 141 apartments, six live-work units, and two retail spaces. One is a restaurant, which was originally planned for another lot even closer to the bridge. Eugene Simor, who owns the adjacent Alamo Beer Company, and Meyer, are partnering on the development.
HDRC rejected previous designs of the project in December. Commissioners asked for, among other things, a more clear plan for the space between the building and the bridge. “Open space” is now planned there, according to the developer’s application package. While that open space is on private land, it will be open to the public save for private events, Meyer said.
The lawsuit and other factors such as views of the bridge are not issues under the purview of the HDRC, local land use attorney James McKnight said in February. McKnight is representing Loopy Limited.
Steadman spoke at several HDRC meetings last year regarding the project and provided historical perspective on efforts to restore the Hays Street Bridge.
“He was that rare combination, a man of both vision and action,” Pasley wrote.