Best Salsa Club

Best of SA 2013: 4/24/2013
Beaches Be Trippin\': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Beaches Be Trippin': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Arts & Culture: Let’s face it, most of us Lone Stars view the Texas coast as a poor man’s Waikiki. Hell, maybe just a poor man’s Panama Beach — only to be used... By Callie Enlow 7/10/2013
Will Google Fiber Bridge San Antonio\'s Digital Divide?

Will Google Fiber Bridge San Antonio's Digital Divide?

News: In February, Mayor Julián Castro, flanked by a handful of council members, the city manager and a former state representative, delivered an... By Mary Tuma 6/18/2014
Chris Pérez, Selena’s Husband, Faces His Past and Looks Forward, Musically

Chris Pérez, Selena’s Husband, Faces His Past and Looks Forward, Musically

Music: Chris Pérez never saw it coming. “All I ever wanted to do was play guitar,” he told the Current. “I never thought I’d be the subject of an interview... By Enrique Lopetegui 8/28/2013
A Primer on Freetail\'s Downtown Brewery

A Primer on Freetail's Downtown Brewery

The Beer Issue: Scott Metzger is almost too zen as we talk on the phone about the impending opening of Freetail’s Brewery and Tasting Room on... By Jessica Elizarraras 10/15/2014

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

Follow us on Instagram @sacurrent

Print Email

Decade of Downtown

In pursuit of a ‘better’ city, less tangible values become paramount

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

Related stories

What makes a city great?

Travel magazines thrive on tourist recommendations that puncture popular myths about seemingly familiar places. In San Antonio’s rapid transformation across a number of sectors, today’s mapmakers can be excused for mostly missing the boat.

In a way, we’re victims of our own marketing.

“San Antonio has the reputation of a charming city, but I don’t think that folks see the San Antonio of 2011,” Mayor Julián Castro told the Current this week. While we’re known as a nice place to enjoy a margarita on the River Walk, “there’s not a lot of depth” in how much of the world sees us. As the city wrestles over how to remake our inner core, a place almost completely given over to visiting margarita sippers and corporate entertainers, we can expect that to change quickly as a number of ambitious agendas continue to roll out.

Key in our transformation has been the hard-won rewiring of CPS Energy and guiding sustainable principles taking root within city government aimed at not only changing how we generate and use our energy, but in “re-naturing” the city. While the roots of modern cities grew out of dominating the natural world — whether through the earliest temple-based cultures or the discovery of agriculture that first cut a deep channel between wild and the civilized — even the builders of the earliest “megacity,” Rome, understood that cities needed a defined boundary line with nature. Bands of pasture were frequently preserved outside the city walls, and when one city grew too big, new cities were founded rather than being allowed to sprawl out into an ungovernable mess. It’s a lesson we’re still struggling to remember.

San Antonio’s environmental awareness jolted awake over water concerns decades ago and has only more recently turned to issues of open land as our frontier city has bumped up against the price tag of runaway development. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said the strain on county resources has become so acute that it’s become wiser for Bexar County to invest in subsidizing downtown apartments than to pay for the cost of providing services for new residents moving into the unmanaged fringes. It’s a problem he blames partially on the city’s increased reluctance to annex outlying lands but also on state-limited county powers.

“It’s untenable right now, I can assure you of that,” Wolff said this week. “There’s no way to provide the services out there with the limited resources we’ve got. … So the idea of drawing people in is much more important than it was 20 years ago. We just did two tax breaks just last week for developments downtown. It used to be just jobs, now it’s: Can we get you to live [downtown]?”

Attracting new residents into San Antonio’s urban core will involve a number of issues, including improving the proximity to jobs (low), grocery stores (none), and affordable housing (limited). But increasingly nature has also become an institutionalized value. Pollution-free solar energy is vital, Wolff said, as are the hike-and-bike trails that have begun to line area creeks. And while Wolff has spent much of his career brokering high-profile big- development business deals, he called the extension of the River Walk’s Mission Reach — chiefly an environmental restoration project stretching, ultimately, for eight miles south of downtown — “the most important public-works project of our time.”

We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus