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City Council could vote to drastically reshape areas near downtown San Antonio

City officials could adopt a set of strategies that would encourage more mixed-use development along… – Courtesy /City Of San AntonioVIA Metropolitan Transit’s 30.6-acre site at 1021 San Pedro — in addition to its offices and bus mai… – Courtesy /City Of San Antonio

Slide 1 of 4: City officials could adopt a set of strategies that would encourage more mixed-use development along major corridors leading into downtown from the North Side, including on San Pedro Avenue.

San Antonio officials are on the cusp of enacting a plan that could drastically reshape development in areas near downtown and along Broadway within the next two decades.

Residential and office development along Broadway has surged since 2010, fueled by the redevelopment of the abandoned Pearl Brewery into a mixed-use development with high-end apartments, restaurants and shops. City and county officials also have brought residents back downtown by subsidizing the construction of thousands of housing units in the area.

The Midtown Area Regional Center Plan could be the city’s next step in trying to revitalize San Antonio’s urban core.

City Council is expected to vote Thursday on the plan, a wide-ranging document that would guide land use, streets, sidewalks and parks — along major corridors leading into the center city — in the next two decades as more residents flock to neighborhoods near downtown.

“We’re not saying, ‘Okay, this is exactly how it’s going to happen,’” said Bridgett White, director of the city’s planning department. “We’re saying, in speaking with the community and looking toward the future, this is how we envision this area looking in the future. And, of course, it’ll take time.”

The proposal covers a J-shaped, 3.7-square-mile area that stretches from Interstate 10, encompasses neighborhoods directly north of downtown and the Pearl and runs along Broadway, stopping just north of the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW).

Among the potential land uses envisioned by a 21-member planning team — made up of neighborhood leaders, land developers and local education officials — are two “catalytic projects” along San Pedro Avenue. One would overhaul the corridor over the next two decades from a car-friendly environment dominated by fast-food restaurants and gas stations to one more amenable to pedestrians.

A mixed-use “gateway” with apartments, townhomes and ground-floor retail would take up three blocks along San Pedro south of Marshall Street — an area currently dominated by fast-food restaurants and a QuikTrip gas station. Roughly a half mile north, VIA Metropolitan Transit’s 30.6-acre site at 1021 San Pedro — in addition to its offices and bus maintenance operations — could include residences, retail and a trail connecting San Pedro Springs Park and Fredericksburg Road.

San Pedro isn’t the only midtown thoroughfare targeted for a potential makeover. The planning team identified Flores Street, Fredericksburg Road and Main and McCullough avenues just north of downtown as possible mixed-use “gateways” that would be prime spots for office, retail and residential development in the coming years.

The city is also preparing for development along the lower Broadway corridor near the Pearl and northward along Brackenridge Park toward Witte Museum and UIW. The plan designates the preferred future use of land south of Hildebrand Avenue along Broadway as mixed-use.

And the entertainment district on St. Mary’s Street — home to bars and live music venues like Paper Tiger and Limelight — would remain concentrated north of Josephine Street while the city encourages the establishment of more restaurants and retailers along the strip that operate during the day. City policy would support residential development along the half-mile stretch of St. Mary’s between Interstate 35 and Josephine.

The document directs city officials to adopt policies that bolster the area’s existing jobs base in the education, health care and service industries anchored by UIW, San Antonio College and Metropolitan Methodist Hospital and the St. Mary’s and Fredericksburg arts and entertainment districts.

The proposed plan mostly limits mixed-use development to main thoroughfares, away from residential areas in Tobin Hill, Five Points, Mahncke Park and Westfort — and discourages zoning changes in those neighborhoods. But the proposal also urges more housing options in the Midtown region for students, families and seniors at affordable rates.

“I think you have to be mindful of what’s there and the fact that we have to provide the housing, but also respect the longtime residents who are there, who live there, who have been there for a while,” White said.

But some members of the planning team that drafted the Midtown document are skeptical that the proposed strategies would help neighborhoods maintain their character and prevent displacement of residents with deep roots.

Not part of the discussion was how desired development outlined in the proposal would impact property values in areas that are already seeing those values skyrocket, said Mike Austin, a representative of the Tobin Hill Community Association.

“The residential aspect of Tobin Hill is going to be diminished over years,” Austin said. “It’s just going to be difficult for people to afford.”

Also unclear is how the proposal’s strategies would affect the area’s low-income residents, including senior citizens who live in facilities between McCullough and San Pedro, said Graciela Sanchez, director of the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center. Sanchez said she fears the proposal’s emphasis on mixed-use, inspired by the Pearl, will ultimately homogenize the area.

“It’s a space that’s not meant for me and I don’t feel that it is mine,” Sanchez said of the Pearl. “If that is the vision for the rest of the city or for other regions, it changes what San Antonio is about.”

Joshua Fechter is a San Antonio-based staff writer covering real estate, economic development and philanthropy. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | jfechter@express-news.net | Twitter: @JFreports

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