This coming Monday, Sept. 23, Something Monday — a weekly bike ride of the casual, social, informative persuasion — will be graced with the opportunity to tour Main Plaza, “The Heart of the City,” with the Main Plaza Conservancy (MPC) Executive Director Jane Pauley-Flores.
Let’s start to gather this Monday, 6:15 p.m. at the Blue Star Arts Complex B-cycle station at 1414 S. Alamo St. We’ll depart at 6:30 p.m. to South Flores Street (avoiding the seemingly endless construction on South Alamo Street) up towards Main Plaza. Budget a little extra time to get there if street crews are working on the roadway and extended detours are still in effect.
Main Plaza is a short, 1.5 mile ride away. As usual, we’ll leave it up to a casual majority rule as to where we meet up afterwards for “drinks” (alcoholic beverages are optional). La Tuna Ice House and Grill, The Friendly Spot, Alamo Street Eat Bar, Halcycon and Blue Star Brewing Co. are all good options that are close to our round-trip ending point at Blue Star. All ages, experience levels and bicycle styles are welcome. Please bring front and rear bike lights to comply with local ordinance as the days get shorter. Our partners at San Antonio B-cycle will ensure a full station of bikes for rent.
An RSVP is not required, but a “going” response to our Facebook Event Page (Something Monday Vol. V: The Four Cs of Main Plaza) is greatly appreciated.
So what’s the big deal about Main Plaza? Well, you’ll just have to join us to find out — or you could just Google it, but that seems a bit … boring, right? Might be better to get an in-person tour of the city’s first plaza from a local expert, no?
Well, to whet your appetite, Main Plaza is home to the oldest operational sanctuary in North America, San Fernando Cathedral, and the oldest municipality building in Texas, the Bexar County Courthouse — the “Four C’s” are all there: cathedral, county, city, and, thanks to the MPC, conservancy. Though there is a lot of “old” in that sentence, there’s also a lot of new in the plaza.
Unlike Alamo Plaza or many other public spaces downtown (*cough* the River Walk), Main Plaza — while interesting to some tourists — is really more for the residents of San Antonio. The functions of the surrounding buildings — offices, courthouses, city hall, local business — are to serve the citizens of San Antonio.
Pauley-Flores will be guiding us through a historical and contemporary overview of the plaza and what it is the MPC does to preserve its history while engaging the public to learn, play and relax on its grounds.
She’s been director of the nonprofit organization since its founding in 2007, almost a year before its renovation.
“(Main Plaza) was a grassy knoll with a fountain in the middle and streets on all sides,” said Pauly-Flores. “The Conservancy didn’t have an office or phones.”
Former Mayor Phil Hardberger paved the way — literally — for this reactivation of public space. The restoration project closed portions of Main, Main Plaza, Dolorosa and Commerce streets to create a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere in 2008.
“The beautiful thing about this space, what was so attractive to me … is that this has been the urban core of San Antonio for about 300 years,” said MPC Programs Manager Ashley Quinn. “Technically, 291 years.”
Main Plaza, Pauley-Flores said, was one of the first downtown public venues that started hosting free outdoor movies, street musicians and activities to engage the public space. “We really try to be innovators.”
Every Tuesday, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., the plaza hosts a popular farmers market in partnership with the San Antonio Food Bank. Between the market and lunchtime concerts on Mondays and Thursdays, larger annual events like the Mariachi Corazón de San Antonio — a high school Miariachi competition and scholarship — and latino music festival, Main Plaza is usually a busy place.
The plaza has found a friend and ally in the cycling community, as the plaza isn’t surrounded by heavy traffic like you’d see in downtown Austin or Houston. Add to that, parking isn’t exactly plentiful and many residents still aren’t keen on the idea of paying for parking lots and garages.
MPC has been scheduling more and more bike-centric activities (like the ongoing Cycle-in Cinema series and the recent Bike Beat festival) to promote bicycle safety and use. Such programming is the brainchild of Ashley Quinn, Pauley-Flores said.
“We’re so fortunate in our office,” Quinn said. “From (the window) I can see people stop, get off their bikes and pray in front of the cathedral … I can’t tell you how many people just come to sit, to meditate, and watch the fountain, the birds and the people … We get to see all of the plaza from our windows. I look out the window and daydream about what to do next.”