Decade of Downtown
Alamo Brewing could lure downtown traffic to the Eastside, if the city cuts a deal
Published: July 20, 2011
The view from the Hays Street Bridge tells stories for those willing to see them. To the north and west are views of the former Pearl Brewery with its 120-year-old castle-like tower and the original Lone Star Brewery. Those historical locales tell the tale of a once-proud industry that put San Antonio on the map decades before 1968’s HemisFair summoned the nation’s attention.
Turn the other way on the bridge and the view of the skyline is one of the best in the city, complete with the Tower of the Americas — that enduring symbol of HemisFair — and numerous sky-scraping hotels serving as a testament to our high-volume tourist trade.
But the bridge, restored in 2010, is also a link to potential new San Antonio stories and is making an identity on the city’s neglected near east side. It arches over a warehouse and manufacturing district to connect foot and bike traffic from a thriving downtown into quiet Eastside neighborhoods.
It took 20 years of tireless effort by conservationists and neighborhood activists to create that link, but to date it hasn’t been a catalyst for development. Now beer once again emerges as a possible solution.
“A brewery will help immediately enhance the area around the Hays Street Bridge,” said Eugene Simor, the owner of Alamo Beer Co., who hopes to build a brewery on city land on the opposite side of the bridge from his own Eastside tract. “Locals and tourists alike will want to visit the brewery, not just for the tour, but for drinks and meals as well” at a rooftop restaurant that links to the bridge.
Sound familiar? That kind of infill thinking is what turned the River Walk from a flood-prevention drainage project in the 1930s into one of the most famous tourist attractions in the country. It took the abandoned Lone Star Brewery and gave the city the San Antonio Museum of Art. And in the last few years, the old Pearl Brewery has become a hub for lower Broadway with shops, restaurants, offices, and the Culinary Institute of America campus.
Many people in the Dignowity Hill neighborhood are all for it, seeing an opportunity for an architecturally pleasant — albeit light-industrial — building. But some, including an outspoken activist who made it her mission to see the bridge restored, think the space should be a park instead.
When former BudCo owners Berkley and Vincent Dawson moved the Anheuser-Busch beer distributorship to new digs on Highway 90, they donated the land to the city. The only stipulation was that if the city decided to turn it into a park, it would be named after them. It has been a decade since that move and nothing has been done to make improvements to the property. The city parks department has never accepted the land into the parks system because of lack of funds.
Simor, whose Alamo Golden Ale has been brewed under contract by Real Ale Brewing Co. in Blanco for the last eight years, has another vision for the area: the industrially zoned property is only a 12-minute walk from his brew’s namesake shrine, offering a perfect neighborhood gathering place. So he bought property on the south side of the bridge through a family trust for an undisclosed amount.
> Email Travis E. Poling