Hard Hats, Scaffolds and Cranes Symbols of progress in downtown San Antonio
Symbols of progress in
downtown San Antonio
By ALEX GILFORD
Photography GERRY LAIR
Can a construction site be beautiful? Yes, if it’s in downtown San Antonio! At this moment, hard hats, scaffolds and cranes dot the central business district and serve as symbols of progress, long-awaited progress.
For someone like me,who remembers the glory days of downtown, every project is a welcome sight. The center city is getting its hustle and bustle back and a little swagger too. The central business district is making a dramatic comeback with new hotels, condominiums, museums, restaurants, entertainment venues and retail. The pieces that make up this exciting story have proven worthy of telling, time and again. And Bravo! San Antonio has done just that.
The September-October 2005 issue featured an article by Leigh Baldwin titled The Move Back to Downtown. As it turned out, her writing inspired a series of stories in the magazine over the next two years that centered on the revitalization of our city’s central business district. For example, in the very next issue, Mark Sullivan contributed My, How Things Have Changed: Enjoying The All Grown-Up Alamo City, and Mark Kinkaid wrote Living in the CBD.
I followed in the January-February 2006
edition with Three Days in the Life, which
detailed my life as a downtown resident
from close of business at 5 p.m. on Friday
one particular weekend to 9 p.m. Sunday
night. I must admit it was fun writing about
how my wife and I enjoyed fine food,
Broadway theater, shopping, a film, friends
and family in those 52 hours without ever
taking our car out of the parking garage.
The fact is these four articles wouldn’t have
been written 10 years ago. Good things
have happened downtown.
Additional stories have been published in the pages of Bravo! about individuals who have made major contributions to the growth of the center city – people such as Mona Lowe of Reata, Ben Brewer of the Downtown Alliance and Andres Andujar of Parsons (formerly 3D/International). Many major center city projects have also been featured: Pearl Brewery, River North, Museo Alameda, the opening of the Asian wing at SAMA and the renovation of Main Plaza. Special places like La Villita, the River Walk and Southwest School of Art and Craft have been singled out for their historic significance. Public art, performing arts, festivals and fairs that draw large crowds to downtown have been underscored too.
On the Drawing Boards, a piece by
Ron Bechtol in the March-April 2006 issue,
outlined a series of planned projects
designed to bring new life to the central core. In it he discussed hotels that are
coming soon, such as the Grand Hyatt at
the convention center (1,000-rooms with
Alteza’s 147 condos on the upper floors),
the Drury Plaza in the old Alamo National
Bank building, the 138-room Staybridge
Suites at Sunset Station and the 90-room
boutique Hotel Indigo in the Gibbs
Building at the corner of Houston Street
and Alamo Plaza. He also provided info
on Vidorra (a two-tower luxury condo
project next to St. Paul Square), Piazza
San Lorenzo (a mixed-use project on
Soledad), the second phase of La
Cascada, and the Neisner Building.
Leigh Baldwin continued the theme of drawing board projects in her account Downtown: Its Time Has Come Again. Printed in the November-December 2006 issue of the magazine,it introduced readers to The Vistana (a 14-story apartment building with 246 units) on Santa Rosa between Houston and Commerce streets, Rivera (a condo in what was previously known as the Fishmarket Building) on the River Walk at St. Mary’s and Commerce, a new high-rise Courtyard by Marriott on the site once occupied by St. Mary’s School between College and Commerce on St. Mary’s Street,and the Briscoe Western Art Museum in the old Hertzberg Museum Building on Market Street near Hotel Contessa.
And the point of this retelling is this: All of these projects are now either built or in the process of being built. Hard hats, scaffolds and cranes are beautiful indeed. Maybe the glory days of downtown San Antonio are not in the past but rather in the future. Now there’s a thought. Bravo! will keep you posted.