Time to do some Downtown Placemaking
Tonight and tomorrow night people interested in helping plan and improve downtown San Antonio will come together for two workshops, one including beer along with the fun. The first event, a face to face conversation about how to improve the downtown area, is scheduled for tonight at the Central Library at 5:30 p.m. Tomorrow night Texas Public Radio is hosting the second event called Views and Brews: Placemaking at Warehouse Music over by Tucker’s Kozy Korner. Both are leveraging the information already collected by the Placemaking effort being managed by the Center City Development Office. So, what’s all this placemaking really about?
The effort is part of a larger initiative by the Project for Public Places, a non-profit organization “founded in 1975 to expand on the work of William (Holly) Whyte, the author of The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces.” Having completed several projects already and being in tune with what it takes to identify good urban spaces demonstrates the natural connection between the organization and San Antonio’s effort to redefine and redevelop downtown, a key initiative of SA2020.
So what are we seeing as a result of some of the online work conducted to this point? If you look at the Ideas Map you’ll find a myriad of interesting ideas throughout the downtown area, mostly focused on the area north of Nueva Street. Several of the ideas focus on the addition of a downtown grocery store, although the location picked by people seems to be in a variety of places throughout the downtown area. Current speculation has a new grocery store, or some variant, planned by HEB at Cesar Chavez (aka Durango) and Flores, probably the best place for such a venture given the higher residential density in that area.
Looking at other ideas, some focus on cleaning up the parks and adding more dog parks in the area (the Madison Square Park seems to get quite a bit of traffic since installation), including one proposal to turn the green space across from Frost Bank into a dog park. Others include bringing more major businesses back to downtown to help create more of a live/work environment in the downtown area. With most of the downtown occupied by hotels/motels there really isn’t a strong live/work presence in the area. I can attest that some are trying it with several residents in my building, the Vistana, working in the downtown area.
One of my favorites is to have an annual Texas Food Truck Festival downtown on some of the streets in the area. That is actually pretty appealing and could work in several areas. It could involve closing one lane of a major street to allow people to walk up and down the sidewalk sampling food. Since we’ve stopped having the monthly Houston Street Fairs maybe this would be a way to revive the concept for one weekend of the year. Bringing in food trucks from around Texas would fit right into the San Antonio mode of a festival every weekend.
The point of the effort is to collect ideas in a crowd sourced style of collaboration and to find those nuggets (like the Food Truck Festival) in the mix. It also helps to understand what’s on people’s minds when planning out new development or redevelopment in the downtown area.
So I suggest that if you have an interest in downtown or just want to have some fun and beer, stop by one of the Placemaking sessions. If you can’t, you can add your idea to the interactive site so others can see your creativity. Regardless, it’s a great way to understand more about downtown.