Trending
MOST READ
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
Best River Walk Restaurant

Best River Walk Restaurant

Best of SA 2012: 4/25/2012
Free Things to Do: Kid-friendly

Free Things to Do: Kid-friendly

Free Guide: It’s almost summer, which means that your government-subsidized free daycare (aka public school) goes on hiatus thanks to an archaic allegiance to a rural agriculture economic system that hasn’t been in play for decades. What to do with the wee ones whining 5/21/2014
How Rebates Have the Texas Film Industry Playing Catch Up To its Neighbors

How Rebates Have the Texas Film Industry Playing Catch Up To its Neighbors

Screens: See if you can spot the common thread that is pulling at the seams of the Texas film industry. On NBC’s The Night Shift, a stock-written staff... By Matt Stieb 8/27/2014
Best Vietnamese Restaurant

Best Vietnamese Restaurant

Best of SA 2013: 4/24/2013
Calendar

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

Follow us on Instagram @sacurrent

Print Email

Decade of Downtown

Will efforts to revitalize the city core draw locals back or simply extend the Disneyfication of the River Walk?

Photo: Photos by Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Photos by Michael Barajas

HemisFair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation CEO Andres Andujar

Photo: , License: N/A

Current plans for HemisFair call for the demolition of the west wing of the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center, seen here, to make way for a large, open park on HemisFair’s northwest corner.



Related stories


Arecchi, owner of downtown shop Justin’s Ice Cream, opened his first River Walk business, a local nightclub called the Garter, the same year locals and tourists alike converged on the newly built HemisFair Park in 1968. He eventually opened his ice cream parlor on the river in 1981, where he stayed for over two decades, watching downtown change before his eyes.

It’s what Arecchi aptly called “the chainification of downtown” that lost him his River Walk spot in 2004, when Houston-based chain Landry’s Restaurants came in and gobbled up a host of downtown properties. A Saltgrass Steak House eventually moved in and booted Arecchi from his place along the river, though he found his way back in 2009 — ironically, near another Landry’s establishment: downtown’s Rainforest Café.

“I think for a while there was a lax attitude about what type of development we want to see downtown, an ‘any development is good development’ type thing,” Arecchi said. “I think it was some dumb-ass politicians that started to open the doors to let these people in, these chain restaurant people,” he said. “I’ll tell you what I’m afraid of when we talk about downtown — it’s more hotels coming in and buying up properties down here, bringing in their corporate restaurants, their cafes, their bars, and wiping out small, local business.”

In 2004, the city turned HemisFair’s iconic tenant, the Tower of the Americas, over to Landry’s for a 15-year agreement to manage and operate the property, and the chain opened up its own restaurant, bar, and gift shop inside HemisFair.

“When we look at HemisFair, it does bring up that question: Who will this downtown plan be catered to? That’s really been a big concern for me,” Bernal said. “For those of us who grew up here, who saw how the city grew in the ’80s and ’90s, we understand that downtown hasn’t really been for residents. Most don’t go downtown.”

Downtown rental units, especially affordable ones, are still notably sparse even while large swaths of downtown office space have sat empty for years. Notably, when AT&T’s lease expired on its former downtown headquarters early this month, the open space hit the market and spiked downtown office vacancy to roughly 29 percent, compared to the 17.7 percent vacancy rate outside the central business district, the highest downtown vacancy rate in decades, according to Kim Gatley, senior vice president at NAI REOC San Antonio, a commercial real estate firm.

A downtown renewal with locals in mind will likely require the conversions of long-vacant downtown office space into residential apartments. Still, save for a few notable exceptions like the Vistana’s 14-story apartment complex downtown, developers have yet to line up behind conversions to market-rate rentals downtown. “We have seen a few successful conversions of older downtown office buildings for residential, but more often than not we see conversions to hotel space,” Gately said.

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