By John W. Gonzalez, San Antonio Express News, September 8, 2016
After years of planning, construction is starting on a $175 million San Pedro Creek Improvements Project that officials said will transform another swath of downtown San Antonio.
At a kickoff ceremony Thursday at Fox Tech High School, officials said the effort will remove the dreary concrete trench that has held the creek for decades. The effort, lasting several years, will restore natural creek banks and ecosystems, add sidewalks and provide cultural enhancements along the way.
Cited by historians as the location of the city’s original Spanish settlement, the creek’s natural appearance was largely obliterated decades ago when the concrete channel was installed to avert downtown flooding. But renewed interest in redeveloping the western part of downtown led to an intricate plan involving Bexar County, the city, the San Antonio River Authority and numerous landowners.
County Judge Nelson Wolff, who called the project transformative, said “this will be one of the greatest legacy projects that this Commissioners Court has ever done.”
“You are going to see the quality of life enhanced, economic growth and cultural vibrancy,” Wolff said. “It’ll be totally different than what the River Walk is today,” he said.
Not only will the waterway become a linear park, it will be lined with new housing and business developments, including a planned Frost Bank tower and a planned federal courthouse building, officials said. The project’s initial phase, from near Fox Tech to César Chávez Boulevard, is slated for completion in time for the city’s tricentennial observance May 5, 2018.
Rather than mark the start of construction with a traditional groundbreaking, SARA workers set off a row of geysers, delighting a crowd of several hundred people, including public officials, contractors, neighbors and other stakeholders. The event’s highlight, however, was a 30-minute performance of the first act of “Las Fundaciones de Béjar: A Mythic Opera of the Foundings of San Antonio de Béjar,” by members of Opera San Antonio, Alamo City Opera and Ballet San Antonio.
The opera was commissioned by the county at a cost of $160,800 for the tricentennial. The music was by composer Joseph Julián González of California, with a libretto by San Antonio author and historian John Phillip Santos.
The performers — nearly 100 dancers, musicians, soloists and chorus members — included student mariachis from the San Antonio Independent School District, American Indians in Texas Dance Theater, the San Antonio Symphony and Children’s Chorus of San Antonio.
The creek project, which is being managed by SARA for the county, was launched in May 2013, as work was wrapping up on the county’s $200 million ecosystem restoration of the San Antonio River’s Mission Reach. Commissioners committed $125 million to the creek project, with the remainder coming from SARA, the city and others.
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