The QueQue: Fracking waste leads to injection well standoff in Wilson County, Beer dreams get upper hand in Hays Street Bridge scuffle, Bexar County jail suicide by spoon
Published: July 3, 2012
After a long afternoon of comments last week from beer-loving supporters and opponents rankled by Alamo Beer Co.'s plans build a microbrewery on the bridge's east end, the city's Planning Commission approved selling the company the 1.69-acre lot of surplus city land for the microbrewery's development. For many who fought to save it, plans to cap the east end of the historic Hays Street Bridge with a microbrewery amount to a land grab threatening to obstruct the bridge's remarkable downtown view. But more importantly, they say, the proposal throws a wrench into the Hays Street Bridge Restoration Group's long-term plans to make the property a public park.
Restoration Group members say they feel burned, insisting the Dawson family, former owners of the East Side's BudCo beer distributer that donated the property, turned the land over to the city in 2007 wanting a park. Trey Jacobson, Alamo Beer's attorney, countered BudCo set no conditions when it donated the land.
Both sides appear to be right.
Abigail Kinnison, formerly the city's hike and bike coordinator, recalled applying for a state grant in 2006 hoping to fund a park on the property in tandem with the Hays Street Bridge restoration. A 2006 letter from BudCo shows there were indeed company-approved plans for a park before it donated the land. "As the owners of the 1.69 acres at 803 N. Cherry, it is our desire to donate that land to the City for redevelopment into a park to serve visitors of the Hays Street Bridge," BudCo's VP of marketing wrote the Texas Transportation Commission at the time.
Funding from the state fell through and plans for a park were put on hold. "It may have not been written into the deed, but there are records like this that indicate the original intent," said Kinnison, pointing to another East Side neighborhood plan that marks the land as a future park.
Jacobson with Alamo Beer said last week that the company contacted Vincent Dawson in June to clarify what the family wanted before heading into the Planning Commission meeting. In an email to the commission, Dawson wrote: "I wanted to make sure that you all were clear on my brother's and my donation of this land to the city back in 2007. This property was a straight donation to the city. There were no restrictions on its use that we are aware of or intended."
Jacobson also insisted the area's not right for a park — a sentiment echoed by several who spoke before the commission last week — and that four public parks already sit within 500 yards of the proposed development. "Right now there's riffraff hanging out on and underneath that bridge," Jacobsen said. "Really, this would activate that area. … It's an industrial site, this has always been an industrial site. It's not Hardberger Park, it's not a park at all."
Alamo Beer owner Eugene Simor says he plans to invest some $5.9 million in the microbrewery. Under the deal with the city, he's hoping to score some $700,000 in incentives, including tax abatements, fee waivers, and a $295,000 cash grant for infrastructure improvements (the same price as the property). Consider Boneshakers, which recently relocated to the bridge's West End and got no such perks from the city. Boneshakers owner J.P. Perez was overwhelmingly supportive of the Alamo Beer project at the meeting last week.