March 05, 2007
Updating the River Walk

Fascinating article about an ambitious plan to extend and update the San Antonio River system with more parks and other development.

The study by TXP Inc. was commissioned by the San Antonio River Foundation, which will use it to bolster a campaign to raise an additional $50 million from the private sector to fund public art and other amenities for a 13-mile linear park along the San Antonio River.

The report suggested the completed park, running from the Witte Museum to Mission Espada, would add $12.5 million annually to the area's tax base, increase property values adjacent to the open space along the river, and create close to 10,000 permanent jobs.

"What struck me about the project is that it's very consistent with where San Antonio development needs to be," said Jon Hockenyos, managing director of TXP, an Austin-based consulting firm. "San Antonio has had great success recruiting companies, but now it needs to focus on attracting and retaining people, and this project does that."


The report, which calls its revenue estimates conservative, assumes the city would see continued strong economic growth over the next decade, given the 36,400 jobs that have been added to the area since 1994, creating "tremendous demand" for new types of housing and entertainment options.

Much of the new development along the river would mix open space with residential, retail, office and entertainment development.

Tourism, too, should be enhanced by a river that could be navigable from the museums to the missions. Recent tourism research notes that visitor levels within the main River Walk area are beginning to get overcrowded, so expanding river destinations for visitors would be crucial to the continued success of the region's top tourism draw.

Sonny Collins, the river foundation's president, compared the improvements project with Chicago's Millennium Park, which has seen the value of surrounding land increase $1.4 billion, with increased tourism expected to bring in another $2.6 billion over the next decade.

That success will allow Chicago to pay off $285 million in bonds it issued to help pay for the park three to five years early, Collins said.

"The numbers are mind-boggling," he said. "We'd love to think we could emulate that."

I agree with PM Bryant that one must be skeptical of a study commissioned by an interested party, but like him I'm rooting for this to succeed. I think this is a unique asset for San Antonio, and it would be to that city's benefit to try and realize its full potential. We'll see what happens.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 05, 2007 to The great state of Texas

*sniff* *sniff* Smell that? I think I just caught wind of an imminent domain battle brewing to the West...

Posted by: Patrick on March 5, 2007 2:00 PM